New business openings in Stratford outpace closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic

New business openings in Stratford are outpacing closures, marking a sign the Festival City's economy is beginning to rebound after being clobbered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to permanently close, including about 15 in Stratford since March 2020.

"When you hear something is closing, it is sad," said Rebecca Scott, general manager of the Stratford City Centre BIA. "The impact has been great."

Last year, the Stratford Festival season was cancelled – a summer-long event that usually draws thousands of tourists to the small town each day – dealing a major blow to many small businesses.

But a year later, the city is jumping back from the losses as more than two dozen new businesses have opened.

"Of those 27, 17 are net new, like new to Stratford or they've opened their first business," Scott said. "But the others are ones that maybe moved to a bigger location."

Stilettos and Sawdust is one of several businesses that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic and is about to mark its one year anniversary since opening.

"There were some hills to climb over, especially with places being closed down and not being able to go in person to talk to anybody," said co-owner Kelsey Kuchma. "Every day we were holding our breath but the community came out."

Just down Ontario Street, Alondra Galvez opened the restaurant El Cactus Taco Shop just last month.

"I felt like this was a smaller space, a little more low-risk than other places, and being a takeout shop actually led into what we were looking for right now," said owner Alondra Galvez.

Meanwhile, Angela Chau is readying to open the doors at Angela's Gelato & Fine Refreshments to the public for the first time during the first weekend in July.

"I am worried and I'm just hoping that, you know, once things open up or when the theatres are back, that it'll be successful," she said.

The Stratford Festival will resume performances July 10 under Step 2 of the province's reopening plan. Capacity at the outdoor venues is capped at 100 people.