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Betty's staff adapted to COVID-19, but store not out of the woods yet

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While most of Earth's inhabitants were locked inside their homes under quarantine, new talents were discovered. Many turned to cooking, crafting and working on puzzles to destress and pass the time with their families.

Betty's of Fort Frances was able to fuel all that creativity. They were able to continue delivering paint, crafts and puzzles to customers through online orders.

Justin Anderson, manager of Betty's, said they continued delivering puzzles and home crafts throughout the province during the closure of non-essential businesses.

“It was a bit rough. We tried to change however we needed to,” Anderson said. “We stayed open almost the whole time with pickup orders through either Facebook email or phone calls. Most of our orders came through Facebook. Luckily we had people from in town, but not only in town from other places like Thunder Bay, northern Ontario, Manitoba and parts of southern Ontario.”

Anderson said they did pickup until the government changed their policies to around five people in a space. “For a while, we didn't open our doors fully. We just took people in by appointment. We had one every half an hour to space it out. We try to sanitize as well as we could," he added.

Just like many other businesses had challenges in delivering their service to others during COVID-19, Anderson said it was difficult for Betty's customers to place orders without fully knowing what they were buying.

"It is difficult for customers as well as ourselves as sales people to properly show certain products. Fabric and crafts and puzzles were still the most popular things we were selling, but at the same time, people really liked to see those, feel and touch them,” Anderson said.

“I think some people had a real difficulty still purchasing products like that without being able to touch it, whereas through Facebook Messenger and email, we were able to send photos of whatever people needed. In that way, it was a little bit more work on both ends, for customers and for us and having to send photos back and forth and to really describe things as well as we could."

None of Betty's four employees have been laid off due to COVID. Anderson said because of the wage subsidy, they found it would be best to continue paying employers whether they are working the full hours or not.

Although, like most businesses, Betty's sales went down, Anderson said they did about as well as they could have.

“It was really great having support from within the community as well as outside. I don't think there's any threat of us closing down by any means especially with the wage subsidy continuing until at least December,” Anderson said. That has been quite helpful for us. There's no threat and it depends on how this goes. I don't know if anybody knows what is going to be happening six months from now.”

Now that Ontario has fully entered stage 3 of lifting up COVID-19 restrictions, there are strong emphasis on the importance of maintaining the physical distance, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces and maintaining hand hygiene.

“We also sanitize the machines, the cutting counters and the front counters. The change room is closed in the clothing section until someone asks for assistance. Then at that time we tell them if they like a certain product and they would like to try it on they may do so, but if they do not want to purchase the item, to leave it in the change room so we can set it aside for the allotted five days and then it would be places back on the floor after it's sanitized."

Betty is Anderson's great-grandmother, and the store was established in 1945. Anderson said Betty worked in the same building as a seamstress in 1937.

“I want to thank all these people in the area who continued to support us and continue to support us now because we are not really out of the woods yet," Anderson added.

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