Skip to content

Newmarket's small businesses waiting for customers to return as economy reopens

'Thank God that we are open, but I want to see things become more normal again. Hopefully, when summer comes, more people will be out,' says nail salon owner Kesone Kurusumuthu

The reopening of Newmarket's economy is off to a cautious start, with many small businesses opening their doors for the first time in months on Tuesday, with the hope and their customers will soon return. 

Many business owners NewmarketToday spoke to said they were relieved that they are able to open their doors to customers again but noted that trying to make money in the red-control zone is going to be a difficult task. This is particularly true for new businesses that don't have an established base of customers. 

One such business is Coco's Nails and Spa on Main Street. Owner Kesone Kurusumuthu began renting her location in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. After two waves of the virus and two lockdowns during which she and other personal service businesses had to close entirely, she is ready to make some money. 

But the past year has not made building a client list easy, and Kurusumuthu is worried that the rug may get pulled out from under her once again. 

"I am still worried about what will happen. Are we going to end up locked down again?" she said.

"I have been waiting and praying for us to be able to be open, and then we did. For two months. Then we were locked down again ... Now we are open again, but we don't have a lot of clients yet."

"Thank God that we are open, but I want to see things become more normal again. Hopefully, when summer comes, more people will be out."

A similar situation has played out at Castle John's Pub and Restaurant, which opened its doors on Yonge Street after the first wave of the pandemic had passed, and has managed to survive largely on takeout sales and outdoor dining since opening.

Now with the lockdown over, supervisor Kaitlyn Ledgerwood said she is eager to begin trying to get people into the restaurant's large dining room and attract customers beyond the group of regulars that have supported them so far. 

"The past couple months have been a struggle," said Ledgerwood. 

"But having indoor dining allowed again is exciting and a step in the right direction. But a maximum capacity of 10 people (in the red-control zone) is not enough. We have a big place, and we have the ability to space tables six feet apart, so I don't see why we can't have more than 10. It really should work by how much space you have."

Another thing that has contributed to their struggle is that because Castle John's opened after the pandemic began, it has not qualified for the assistance that other businesses have received. 

"We didn't get any payroll subsidy or rent rebate. We didn't get any help from anybody," she said.

Even more established businesses are off to a bit of a slow start on Tuesday, however. One Main Street business owner who did not wish to speak on the record said that he did not know what to expect after finally being able to open again and is simply taking a wait-and-see approach and hoping that his customers come back. 

The Sturgeon family has run their trophy store, Rainbow Promotions and Awards,  for almost 30 years and made the transition to online orders and curbside pickup fairly well. But they, too, are waiting for their most reliable customers to call again.

"We had some graduations that were cancelled last year, but we ended up getting them in September to December.  Clearly, people still want their awards, but we need to make sure that people realize we are open, when you're not essential, people assume you are not here," said Krysta Sturgeon.

The Sturgeons believe that once the professional and community associations are able to resume their normal events and functions, the business will pick up again.

There were many shoppers at the Upper Canada Mall on Tuesday afternoon, but nowhere near the large crowds that were at the mall when Newmarket was in last in the red-control zone just before Christmas.  

Everyone coming into the mall is screened at the door, as well as at many of the shops.