WATERFORD If the question is to mask or not to mask, the answer in downtown Waterford was clear Saturday.
“We’ve been wearing masks for a quite sometime now because we believe we have a responsibility to protect our customers,” said Robin Reitz, owner of Ritzy Cakes and Nifty Gifty on Alice Street.
“We were doing a lot of curbside pickup during the pandemic and we don’t know where are our products are going to end up. It could be someone picking up a cake to deliver to an older parent and the last thing we want to have happen is someone get COVID because we didn’t take precautions.”
So, Reitz and her staff have been wearing masks for weeks. In the past few days, she said she has seen a change among her customers and others visiting Waterford.
“A week or so ago, it was about 50-50 with some wearing masks and others not,” Reitz said. “But, in the last day or so, it has been more like 99 per cent of the people are wearing masks and I think that’s good.
“I know that I felt a lot more comfortable when I visited Brantford and Kitchener and I saw that most of the people there were wearing masks.”
On Friday, Norfolk County council passed a mask bylaw that requires businesses to develop a policy on face-coverings, post a sign highlighting the policy and to train staff on the proper use of face-coverings.
Businesses have until Aug. 3 to meet the bylaw requirements but Reitz and other downtown Waterford merchants appeared to be well-ahead of the process Saturday.
In addition to a mask, Reitz had a face shield for use and had a jar of hand sanitizer for patrons entering her stores.
Similarly, Leslie Cameron, of Fabulously Vintage Boutique, and Shirley Massecar, of Wildflower Floral Studio, had hand sanitizer available for patrons entering their Alice Street businesses. They, too, were wearing face-coverings.
Massecar and Cameron were celebrating grand openings of their businesses with a Christmas In July theme. Both enterprises had a soft-opening on June 12.
Both are upbeat about their prospects with Haldimand-Norfolk entering Stage 3 of reopening after working their way through the pandemic. Although opening a business during a pandemic isn’t optimal timing, both made the best of it to get ready for the recovery.
“It’s going really well,” said Massecar, who installed a window barrier at the cash register to separate her from patrons. “We’ve had a lot of people come through the store today and most, thankfully, are wearing masks.
“I’m really grateful for the support I’m receiving from the local community and, in turn, I’m making sure I support the community by purchasing flowers from local producers.”
There are a lot of flower growers in Haldimand-Norfolk, who have been hit hard by the pandemic shutdown, Massecar said.
“More than ever, I think it’s really important that we buy local and support each other as much as possible.”
She previously had a floral studio in Simcoe before setting up in Waterford. She moved after meeting and doing some work with Reitz.
Massecar said she is delighted to be part of the community.
On Saturday, she and Cameron were busy serving mask-wearing customers.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in today and many are looking for a summer dress, something that’s pretty and unique at the same time,” Cameron said.
“That’s what separates us from a lot of other stores. Our clothes are new but reflect other eras from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s to today.”
Asked who would open a business during a pandemic, Cameron laughed and replied: “A paramedic.”
A full-time Norfolk County paramedic, who works part-time for Brant Brantford paramedics, she said operating a store gives her a break from her other duties.
“Here, at the store, I get to see people shopping and enjoying themselves,” said Cameron, who is grateful for the support of her family in opening her business. “As a paramedic, I see people when they’re suffering.”
Wildflower, Fabulously Vintage and Ritzy Cakes were among the businesses on Alice Street to participate in a Christmas In July promotion to bring people into Waterford’s downtown on the weekend. Waterford Appliances, and the Antique Market also participated in the promotion.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Welsh, of Front Line Services, spent part of the her day Saturday handing out a CPR training program to people visiting downtown Waterford. Welsh and Vicki Rutherford provide first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, automated external defibrillator and first-responder courses at their Alice Street business.
Welsh said she noticed that a lot more people were wearing masks on Saturday.
“Most of the people have masks with them and keep them off while walking down the street,” Welsh said. “But when they are about to enter a store, they put their mask on.
“It’s good to see. It’s all about keeping each other safe.”