MERRICKVILLE — Small towns across the region have seen an increase in shoppers over the past few months, an unexpected boost in business with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing.
Even a cold rainy morning could not stop shoppers from coming to Merrickville, to search for gifts for their family.
“A small village like ours come January to March is dead,” said Yves Grandmaitre, president of the Merrickville-Wolford and District Chamber of Commerce.
“December is probably the most important month for most of our small businesses,” Grandmaitre said.
“We’ve certainly seen an increase in traffic and the stores have been very pleased,” he added. “We’ve seen a lot more shoppers during the week, which has been wonderful – particularly in this COVID period.”
Merrickville has always been a destination for out-of-towners – the town actually refers to itself as a hidden gem – and business owners have been thankful visitors have respected COVID-19 protocols that are in place
“Lots of mask wearing, lots of hand sanitizing, social distancing as much as they can,” said Heather Dallaire of the Merry Christmas Shoppe.
Holiday shopping in the village usually ramps up in October, but Dallaire saw it rise in early October this year.
“(People are) spending, decorating lots. They can’t see family so they are mailing them decorations this year.”
Just down Main Street, Michael Gray from Gray Art Glass says he has been thanked for keeping people safe.
“We had a line up here a couple weeks ago when it was really busy and everybody was six feet apart. People actually thanked us for limiting the amount of people in the gallery and keeping it safe. Everyone has been really good about it,” said Gray.
“We’re just trying to keep everything safe and we’re really, really happy that everyone is coming out and supporting our small local businesses,” said Gray.
“There’s definitely a feeling of safety out here. I feel safer out here,” Gray said with a chuckle. “I can see why they want to come out and enjoy some fresh air and get out of the city and feel a little bit safer.”
The annual Christmas in Merrickville event starts this weekend and Grandmaitre says it will look different because of the pandemic.
“No outdoor events this year. The few events will be taking place inside such as the fundraiser, silent auction, store decorating. We’ve extended store hours to allow for again, fewer crowds down the street.”
The fundraising event would normally bring in up to 7,000 visitors.
This year the event is being held over two days, to spread out the crowd.
“Our local health department went through the stores last weekend to make sure that all stores were cognizant and met all of the requirements,” said Grandmaitre.
Mask wearing is mandatory inside all buildings, and Grandmaitre strongly recommends wearing them outside too since the sidewalks are narrow.
“Normally Christmas in Merrickville we would close down the Main Street, we’d have hot dogs, hot chocolate, horse drawn sleigh rides, a range of different activities. A tree lighting ceremony. Unfortunately none of that will be happening this year.”
He is impressed with the amount of shoppers coming to the village, and is happy for all the stores benefiting.
“It’s been continuous. People from all over, even from Ottawa and surrounding area. People really seem to be enjoying coming down which is nice. We have several new stores in the village so there is new stuff to be seen,” Grandmaitre said.
“Sales are very good for the stores. It’s actually been a little bit of a challenge. Normally shop keepers would restock the shelves during the week and they haven’t had much of a chance to do that.”
Dallaire said throughout the week is a bit slower, and encourages visitors to shop then to miss the crowds on the weekends.
“It’s a good shopping place. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I love it.”
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