“We had a couple of people here at seven o’clock when we opened up,” said Michel Bergeron, owner/operator of Les Serres Bergeron Greenhouse in Rockland.
Bergeron and other garden supply business owners are enjoying the freedom to operate now as the provincial government launched the first phase of its plan to restart Ontario’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the first weekend in May certain businesses that not on the government’s list of “essential services” are now allowed to resume serving their customers, though still under strict guidelines for social distancing to maintain the provincial pandemic protection plan.
For garden centre operations like Bergeron’s, that means customers queue up outside of the greenhouse display building, tell staff what they want or are looking for, and then the staff go inside to find the item or items and bring them back out. There are some potted plants and hanging plants set outside of the building for customers to examine and purchase if they desire.
It’s not a perfect system, Bergeron admits, but it meets the provincial guidelines as Ontario continues to try to “flatten the curve” on the pandemic. His customers understand when he or his staff explain why they are not allowed to go inside to browse.
“People like to ‘see’ their flowers and such,” he said. “But everybody’s polite. Everybody’s patient.”
Customers like Gail McCourt are just happy to be able to get their gardening supplies together in time for spring planting.
“We’ve already started gardening,” she said, as she browsed the outside display of plants. “We did up a whole big vegetable garden. So far, it’s just the hard-wearing stuff, like cabbage, beets, spinach and such. We’ve got our little tomatoes growing inside until it’s time to plant them.”
Right now, Bergeron noted, the biggest demand he has from customers is for topsoil, of all kinds, to help them prepare their gardens for planting.
“For a lot of them,” he said, “it’s still too early for planting. But they want to get ready. »