Images of what our lives will be like post-COVID-19 are never far from our minds. Having a group of friends over for dinner. That tout-inclus to Cuba that we dream of during another cold snap in the dead of winter. Our friend’s wedding, finally moving ahead after having been delayed twice. Easier visits to see loved ones in long-term care homes. A day at the mall just browsing.
With all the news of vaccines, hope is on the horizon. Yet, beyond what we’ll be doing individually, what will our communities look like in a pandemic-free world? Some sanitary measures will likely remain, but we talk less about subtler changes to our routines. We’ve completely switched our public discourse to not only encourage, but often require people to shop online. When stores can permanently reopen, there will certainly be a jump in demand for in-person shopping. The question, however, is whether this will be enough to keep our malls operating and our main streets from boarding up. Habits, old or new, often die hard. The convenience of our shopping arriving at our doors and often at a lower price is a powerful temptation. With many people continuing to do at least some shopping online, how many of our local businesses will still make ends meet?
What about restaurants and cafés? Coffee pods have a flavour that rivals that of local coffee houses. Many of us have taken the time to become more accomplished chefs, often with more time to cook, thanks to less-frequent commutes. And we’re also getting used to simply spending more time at home.
How often will we as a society go out to support our neighborhood businesses? We'll certainly return at times, but will it be enough to keep Aylmer’s wealth of great boutiques and eateries open?
To this already perfect storm, we’ll soon add one of the largest construction projects Rue Principale has seen in a long time with the demolition and reconstruction of Place des Pionniers. For several years, this major undertaking will make it even less convenient for us to support such a precious artery of our community.
Aylmer's is one of the nicest commercial areas in the entire National Capital Region, complete with festivals and a wonderful view of the river. It’s as delicate as it is charming. Profit margins for local business owners have always been tight. To support local businesses owned by our neighbours, let’s all take an evening per week to enjoy the takeout our restaurants are limited to offering. And pick up a book from one of our several neighbourhood stores whenever we can, even if they need to order it for us. We can also stop by a café for a take-out coffee, even if we have to get out of our cars to get it.
We need to come together as a community, doing everything we can to support our local merchants – now and for several years to come. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one morning to find that a very precious and delicate piece of our neighborhood's identity has slipped away.