Businesses Surviving and Aiming to Thrive in Downtown Paris

The provincial jobless rate has soared to over 17 percent in the past month and businesses of all sizes are announcing they are unable to survive the effect on the pandemic has had on the economy.

However, a number of businesses located in downtown Paris are not only surviving, but looking to thrive thanks to new and innovative ideas created out of necessity during the crisis.

Suzanne’s of Paris, offering high-end lady’s wear, has been a staple in the downtown core for the past 35 years. The business is now open for curbside pick-up and delivery.

Business owner, Leah Thomas says one of the largest challenges she has faced since being forced to close is with inventory.

“Last September, I ordered spring/summer. A lot of it comes in the end of December with deliveries through January and February, so I had in 99 percent of my spring/summer merchandise and my suppliers are now wanting payment.”

Leah Thomas, Suzannes of Paris

Thomas adds, her hope is that business will pick-up now through the combination of curbside delivery and a strong, loyal customer base who have supported the store over the past three decades.

Items purchased through curbside pick-up or delivery with Suzanne’s of Paris may be exchanged for another item or store credit if the fit is incorrect.

Thomas is also looking forward to day she can invite her customers through the door again and will be offering a unique and special experience to them at that time.

“I will actually offer a private shopping experience. It will be one-on-one with every safety precaution taken with masks and (physical distancing) 6-feet apart.”

Leah Thomas, Suzannes of Paris

Despite being allowed to open for curbside pick-up as of Monday, Enrapt Boutique and Spa has opted out for the time being. Instead, owner Rikki Morris says she is continuing to offer a variety of virtual services to promote her business and make retail sales.

Morris began offering virtual facials which she says quickly lead to interest in private, one-on-one consultations and skincare instructions for those interested in participating outside the group, as well as virtual “girls night out” spa events, complete with cocktails.

“I had no idea how it was gonna go. I thought maybe five people would sign up and I’ve ended up with thirty people in the class. So then people are buying product and trying new products.”

Rikki Morris, Enrapt Boutique and Spa
Enrapt Boutique and Spa owner, Rikki Morris, now offers “virtual facials” through an online group every second Friday.

Morris adds, while her creative ways to maintain some retail sales have aided to continue some cash flow in her business, she also remains concerned and uncertain about the future.

“We touch people. I’m not really sure how they’ll lay the groundwork for how we’ll be allowed to work because we are literally within inches of people…massage, facial, waxing, manicure, pedicure…you’re touching all the time.

I can see a big difference, but we’re also an unlicensed business in Ontario, so we don’t have a direction on what we’re supposed to do. It’s a little nerve racking because we don’t have a governing body.”

Rikki Morris, Enrapt Boutique and Spa

Little Paris Bread Co. owner, April Vande Leygraaf, says while her business hasn’t seen a decline, operations have been different. “Things are normally stretched out throughout the week,” Vande Leygraaf says. “I’m now doing 150 loaves on Wednesday, 150 loaves on Saturday. So instead of going day to day to day, it’s now giant orders at a time.”

Little Paris Bread Co. opened on Broadway Street in Paris last August.

Vande Leygraaf adds, she’s overwhelmed by the community support she’s experienced and feels the community has a new appreciation for their small town businesses.

Little Paris Bread Co. is also giving back. Each Friday, a rack with 30 – 40 loaves of bread sits outside their location on Broadway Street. The loaves are free for anyone in need to take.

“I know this has really hit people hard. We’re all looking for that little something to make us happy right now. It’s a little way I can give back and it makes me smile.”

April Vande Leygraaf, Little Paris Bread Co.

Despite the unpredictable time, Vande Leygraaf says she’s still looking to expand her business. Prior to the pandemic, she says she was working towards expanding her business and as long as the zoning is approved will have a larger space come September.