When Lynda Grimmard-Watt returned from her vacation and found out her store space had been leased out, she knew she’d do whatever it took to find it a new spot.
The owner of what seems to be the last standing French bookstore in Toronto, Children’s French Book Corner, shared her previous store with another tenant who had to close their business.
Grimmard-Watt was left to find a new tenant to share the space with, or the landlord would find someone to take over the entire lease. The latter happened first.
With 30 days left to vacate, she worked “incredibly hard for the first two weeks” to secure her new location which reopened its doors at 2205 Danforth Ave. on Oct. 6.
With COVID-19 sweeping over the city, many small businesses have been left to fend for themselves as sales have dropped and rent has soared. Business owners have also said the federal relief funding will not be enough to sustain long-term operations.
Grimmard-Watt said she posted ads and looked for a space every day, but it was her local Danforth East community that really pulled through for her.
“I was overwhelmed and super touched by the support of the community…They’ve been very critical to finding a place,” she said. “I'm also the only French bookstore in the city and kids and parents want that.”
One positive thing to come out of the relocation and COVID-19 was the knowledge that she had also made a difference in the community, she said—it was something she realized when so many people reached out to help.
“The way that parents responded to my cry for help. Finding the support that I got was incredible... And then I made sure I took the time to reply back to them all on Instagram, Messenger, Facebook and on email.”
Unlike many others, Grimmard-Watt said she has been lucky. If she hadn’t found a place in time, she would have had to close down as she doesn’t have the capacity to store all her materials. And going online would be difficult as her customers often require guidance for finding the right book.
When studying French, a child’s reading and comprehension levels may vary, so the parent and child both need to see the content of the book, she said.
In some ways, the Children’s French Book Corner was also saved by the bell.
The hardest-hit subject to get impacted by COVID-19 in the education system is French in English Canada, said Grimmard-Watt.
With some courses cut and few moving online, she said online teaching doesn’t provide the same level of French education as kids are not able to practice or speak much.
She said parents resorted to her bookstore to help their children progress better in their classes.
“This was totally a blessing. This is my passion to have this because I wanted to do something to help with children’s education,” said Grimmard-Watt.
“I left my corporate job and I had my kids and I wanted to go back and do something with education. And a French bookshop in an English-speaking city reached that.”
by Raneem Alozzi via blogTO