Still not business as usual for local garden centres and landscapers
LONDON, ONT. -- Just down the road from Parkway Gardens on Gainsborough Road is a grocery store selling bedding plants out in the open.
Customers can pick and choose what they want with their own eyes.
But at Parkway Gardens, the vast greenhouses and outdoor flower displays remain off limits. Customers must order online for delivery or curbside pickup.
“It isn’t fair,” says Owner Eric Jacobsen, “But, we just have to shrug your shoulders and do our best,"
Despite some positive wording from the premier last week, customers at Parkway and other garden centres are learning they cannot browse the flowers just yet.
Garden centres remain closed to foot traffic, even though last week’s announcement fully opens them up to e-commerce and curb side delivery.
Jacobsen says Parkway was already doing much of what’s now allowed. He says it covers costs, but forget about profits.
“We’ve managed to pivot and reinvent ourselves. Yet, it does cost more for us because there’s more labour involved in picking out the plants, and to deliver them, or to deliver them to curbside.”
But, it is now a different story for landscaping companies. While they must protect their workers onsite, they are - in the new normal sense of the phrase - ‘fully back in business.’
For Darren Pritchard, the owner of Pritchard Property Management, it’s a relief, even though finding last-minute supplies remains tough.
“Some places you have to order it and it takes two days to get stuff. Before, we just went and got it and went to the job site."
Still, larger landscape supply companies are up and running.
But at V&P’s Topsoil & Landscape Supplies, in London’s south end, owner Jason Van Rybroeck says it’s been a tough go, prior to Monday’s return of contractors.
"This is the first season in 14 years that I have not hired a single [new] employee, just not knowing what we’re going into."
The saving grace leading up to Monday, has been business from self-isolating homeowners, who don’t usually make-up a large portion of his business.
“There is a lot of people at home and they are obviously bored, so we’ve been doing a lot of deliveries around the clock."
And while getting back to work is a priority for those who work in down-to-earth industries, Jacobsen is not remiss about the point of all the restrictions.
He admits both he and his staff remain concerned about the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s just a matter of the staff being comfortable enough to return. And quite frankly I don’t want to be open, when there’s still 500 cases in Ontario, to me, that’s a high risk."