This is a difficult season for many retail shops and restaurants in downtown St. John’s, but it’s also been a chance for them to showcase their creativity.
“The innovation coming out of these downtown St. John’s businesses has been astounding,” says Gaylynne Gulliver, who manages marketing and special events with the Downtown St. John’s Business Commission. “Their hard work is to be applauded. They’re just amazing.”
Gulliver says many local restaurants are staying afloat by embracing curbside pick-up and offering delivery, including special deliveries to outlying communities on specific days. They’re also learning how to operate more efficiently in these new ways, like having a limited menu, getting customers to pre-order their food in advance and even putting together ready-to-assemble meal kits.
She says “creative pivoting” is the name of the game right now, as clothing stores focus on what’s casual, shoe shoes promote what’s comfortable and home stores share the best furniture and accessories to make the most of the place we’re spending all of our time.
When COVID-19 struck in mid-March, Gulliver says the Downtown Business Commission started compiling an online list of businesses that were still open and used their social media channels to help promote them.
Downtown St. John’s also worked with the St. John’s Board of Trade to help launch TheNeighbourGood.ca, which showcases what local businesses have to offer so shoppers can click through to their sites and make purchases.
Gulliver says the COVID-19 pandemic’s two silver linings have been that it’s helped usher local businesses into the digital economy — where they’ll be able to support the customers who prefer to shop online — and that shoppers have developed a newfound appreciation for supporting local small businesses.
“Local businesses are closer to their markets so they can react more quickly and help supply their customers more effectively,” says Gulliver. “They’re also keeping more of that money right here in our local economy. A rising tide floats all boats.”
It’s been a difficult year for downtown St. John’s. Before the pandemic, business owners were still reeling from being shut down for eight days during Snowmageddon and enduring an especially hard winter — but Gulliver says their “strength and resilience” has been amazing.
While there won’t be buskers on Water Street, concerts in Harbourside Park, outdoor movie screenings at the foot of Solomon’s Lane or large crowds celebrating up and down George Street this summer, Gulliver says nothing will stop downtown St. John’s from being “an absolutely stunning, breathtaking place to come together as a community.”
“We don’t know exactly what summer will look like this year, but we know people will be able to come downtown and enjoy feeling like a part of the community again,” says Gulliver. “We have wonderful restaurants and retail shops, and it’s a beautiful place to come down and experience a bright, sunny day.”
Please support the businesses in downtown St. John’s by visiting DowntownStJohns.com.