After last week’s shutdown of non-essential businesses, town bylaw officers received a complaint about the Virgil Avondale selling T-shirts.
The specific shirt in question was being sold by the NOTL 4 All Facebook group, as a fundraiser for Red Roof Retreat, which offers recreational and respite programs for children and young adults with special needs, and for their families.
Avondale makes no profit from the T-shirt, says manager Kathy Brown, who is known for her community support of many local causes, including Newark Neighbours, Socks for Change, and for offshore farm workers. This week the jar on her counter was for the people who lost their homes from the devastating volcano eruption on the island of Saint Vincent, home to many of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s seasonal agricultural workers. There are items being collected to ship to the island, and the money will help pay for shipping, she says.
When a bylaw officer first visited the store on Friday, April 9, says Brown, “I talked to him and we agreed I would move some stuff to the back room until I could talk to my home office on Monday.”
On Saturday, a bylaw officer came to the store again, specifically mentioning the T-shirt, and that the visit was in response to a complaint, “but it was resolved, and we agreed to meet Monday morning with my head office.”
After reviewing the NOTL and provincial bylaws, “which clearly state convenience stores can sell retail, with no mention of essential or nonessential — we are not big box stores or discount stores — they made a call to their boss and said they would get back to me,” says Brown.
Last Wednesday morning, Brown was relieved to receive a call that said her store could sell all its products.
Town staff had “interpreted the bylaw” and decided it was okay for the convenience store to continue to sell non-essential items.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in their due diligence in this matter, and doing it in a timely fashion so I wasn’t left in limbo,” says Brown, and “also a thank you to the bylaw officers for being very nice and respectful.”
She adds, “we will not be allowing people to use this as an excuse to come in and browse. We also ask you don’t pick up items you are not buying. We only allow three people in the store at a time so we ask you to purchase what you need as quickly as possible so the next person can do the same.”
“This has been a tough year on everyone,” says Brown, “and we somehow have to figure out some way to work together. Can we take the time to help each other, instead of spending so much time complaining about others?”