Mike Young, owner of Altered Reality on Third Avenue, is excited to give people some extra time and attention to help them get their holiday shopping done during the pandemic. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News)

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Downtown Timmins to come up with creative ways to generate more business.

Following the lead of some other communities in Ontario, some Downtown Timmins stores are promoting something called 'BYOB' or 'Bring Your Own Bubble.' It allows people to book a private shopping session outside of regular store hours with family and friends in their social bubbles.

Cindy Campbell, the business improvement area's executive director, said in a Zoom interview that some people are afraid of the unknown when they're shopping, while others are uncomfortable wearing masks for long periods of time.

"What it is, is the comfort and fun of travelling with your bubble and having, you know, some apple cider, a few Christmas cookies ... and you're trying something on. 'How does it look? Do you think dad would like this gift?' and you show it. So you really have almost like your own personal retail world for that time."

Seven shops and services

So far, seven shops and services are participating, everything from tanning salons to clothing stores to shops that might help you create a different mindset about the pandemic.

"So between 5:30 and 6:30, with a booked appointment, you can bring up to 10 people in your bubble into the store and basically we lock the door behind you and you have a great time and we're here to help you get you through you shopping," said Mike Young, owner of Altered Reality.

"So here we actually have stepped it up a little bit. When you book your session we're going to have drinks and snacks for the people and little swag bags for everyone," said Sonya Biemann, owner of Lemongrass Gift Boutique.

Participating businesses will have 'BYOB' posters in their windows and up to 10 people are welcome, but each store may have different options, so it's best to check ahead of booking an appointment.