Mandatory masking has been gone for a while now – but a few small local businesses still have preferred masking policies.
“We believe this is the best way to ensure the safety and health of our customers and our community as a whole. It puts less strain on our already overburdened healthcare system,” said Charles Foley, director of A Second Look Books and Movies in downtown Kitchener, Ont.
The used bookstore has a sign posted outside, asking people to put on a mask before entering. The sign is similar to the one posted at Full Circle Foods, also downtown.
Co-owner Sam Nabi said they strongly encourage mask use. But people are still welcome without a mask.
“I would say all negative feedback has diminished over the last six months and we have a wide variety of customers who like to shop here and we are happy to serve them all. The vast majority of them follow our rule and that’s is because they value us as human beings and we have a relationship with them,” Nabi said.
Flour Barrel in downtown Guelph has also received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers who are happy to see the face mask favorite sign on their door. Bakery manager Heather Elliot said the policy helped employees feel safer.
“We’re in downtown Guelph,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of clients who are unhoused and live on the streets and you never really know what kind of contact they’ve had. So for safety reasons we’ve chosen to continue carrying them.”
She noted that not all customers understand why the policy is in place.
“You might lose a few customers because there are definitely customers who won’t wear a mask and say that even if there was another mandate, they’re not going to wear it. I think people just have it tired of wearing it and it’s a way for them to go wild.”
Foley said he also heard of some disgruntled customers. But like Elliot, he said it was rare.
“Most of the feedback is pretty positive. They come in, they put on a mask and if they don’t have one, we provide them with one. We want to create an inclusive environment where everyone can feel healthy.”
Foley said their masking policy helps protect their older clientele, who are prone to more severe cases of COVID-19.
Provide free masks to customers
Most businesses that still have a masking policy provide masks at the entrance for customers who do not have one.
Foley and Nabi said handing out free masks cost them about $100 a month.
“It’s small but substantial,” Foley said. “It’s an additional cost that we bear to help make the experience comfortable and safe for everyone.”
Nabi said that in addition to masks, her store has also made some upgrades to improve air circulation.
“All we did was buy new filters for our existing AC system and these cost $20 per filter, which you have to change every three months. Portable HEPA filters cost around $700 for the two. We have some of this funding covered and out of pocket, we are able to manage it with our regular maintenance budget.”
He said the extra costs so far have been worth it.
“We’ve always offered free masks to our customers and it’s an easy layer of protection for us to put in place. It’s something we will continue to do as long as the risk of COVID infection still exists.”