A Digital Main Street grant allowed Erin Dawson to expand her online shopping opportunities for customers.

Dawson owns Jade Garden, the flower and gift shop on Main Street in Vankleek Hill.  Customers had previously been able to order flowers online using the Teleflora service, but Dawson wanted to make online services more accessible to customers and reduce her overhead costs.  Using the grant funding, Dawson will allow customers to shop directly on her website and use Woocommerce, which she said will save her money in the long term.

Digital Main Street is a program to help small businesses improve their online presence and is an initiative of the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. Locally, some of the Vankleek Hill Business and Merchant Association members were eligible to apply for up to $2,500 in funds to improve their websites, add online shops, redesign logos and otherwise add to their digital marketing presence. In nearby Hawkesbury, some businesses also received Digital Main Street funds as part of a Hawkesbury Business Improvement Association.

(Business organizations applied for funds for a local coordinator to assist businesses to apply for the funds. In Vankleek Hill, for example, the $10,000 in funding for the organization included acquiring a laptop, a 360 camera and a printer, in addition to paying for a coordinator for several weeks and incidental expenses.)

The grant came at a fortunate time for Dawson.  She said that due to the cost, making the website changes would have taken more time to complete, and she would have had to put the plan on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flower and gift shops were not considered an essential business by the Ontario government during the most restricted days of pandemic measures in March and April.  However, Jade Garden was able to remain open for curbside pickup and contact-free delivery.

“That being said, I did lay off my employees from the middle of March until the middle of May, when I re-hired on a part-time basis,” said Dawson.

Jade Garden presently has one full-time, and one part-time employee, in addition to Dawson.

The pandemic has changed summer wedding plans for many couples.  Dawson said that 90 per cent of her wedding business for 2020 has been lost, and that there was also a significant reduction in the sale of flowers for funerals because public wakes and services were not permitted or were significantly restricted until recently.  She said that the sharply-reduced income from weddings and funerals will have a long-term effect financially.

However, Dawson appreciates the dedicated support of residents of Vankleek Hill and the surrounding area during the recent months.

“Our town has been amazing at shopping local so that has helped immensely; there is always lots of hope for the future,” Dawson said.

Jade Garden has been open for approximately 15 years.  Erin Dawson purchased the business in 2019.  The shop is located at 85 Main Street East in Vankleek Hill on the corner with Home Avenue.  To shop online, go to https://www.jadeflowersvankleekhill.ca/ .  Jade Garden can also be reached at 613-678-6008.