By Jensen, Randy on March 28, 2020.
With few financial options, and facing increased social pressures to close as the pandemic continues, small business owners in the community are trying to do the best they can to serve customers in the safest way possible.
Big John’s Books in downtown Lethbridge is just one example of a small business facing the COVID-19 conundrum. Owner John Pyska says with public libraries, entertainment venues and recreation facilities closed, more people have begun turning to books to give them some reprieve from their social isolation. He is seeing an increasing number of patrons coming in the past few weeks, and is as busy on weekdays now as he normally is on weekends.
“A lot of people have decided to come in and stock up for the next little while,” he says. “It gets a little boring when all you have is Netflix and movies you have already watched at home. Luckily we have about 100,000 books to pull from.”
Acknowledging the COVID-19 threat, Pyska says he has introduced intensive sanitization measures on all the main touch points in the store like doors, counters and his debit machine. He is also limiting how many customers can be in the store to three or four at a time, and asking them to maintain at least a three-foot distance between each other while inside.
Pyska fully expects the province to order all “non-essential” businesses to close as the pandemic worsens. He admits it worries him. He has tried to call in to get more information on what government supports he may be eligible for as a small business owner if he is ordered to close, but so far has only gotten an answering machine telling him due to high call volumes he should try to call back later.
In the meantime, customers are still wanting their books, and he has a surplus of supply to sell.
“A lot of people are really happy we are still open,” says Pyska. “It’s one of the few things that we can do as a service for the community. Reading keeps you occupied from thinking about other things, and it’s one of those things, I think, that actually expands your imagination. That is something we all need right now.”
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