Toronto's Riverside BIA (Business Improvement Area) is launching new initiatives and programs to welcome back visitors and patrons as local businesses and community hubs gradually adjust to loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
This includes Riverside Reconnects, and part of it is the common market, an outdoor market that celebrated the opening of the community’s new park as well.
"Riverside Reconnects is part of a program we are developing here in Riverside to kind of welcome back people to the main street," said Jennifer Lay, the BIA's executive director. "We are trying to invite people back out, whether it is people who already live here, or people who, you know, live in different neighbourhoods, or even outside of Toronto."
The community considers itself a small town within Toronto, according to Lay, owing to the tight knit connections between residents and independent businesses.
Other initiatives launched by the BIA include the Get to Know Your Locals blog series, and the Queen Eats Program. The blog series profiles local business owners, highlighting their individual stories on the BIA website and on Instagram.
The BIA placed a large emphasis on promoting and helping out the local businesses especially, as several of them slowly recover from the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
"I think, while people think the pandemic is over, the effects of it are really not," Lay said. "A lot of busineses are still getting through the impacts of the last couple years."
Lay mentions that there will be a further push in the winter months for these businesses, a time which tends to be slower in normal years and was made worse by several pandemic restrictions indoor.
"It's really not over [post-pandemic recovery], so small businesses are still really in need," she said. "Small businesses are us, they're our neighbours, they make up the city."
An annual program, Bag of Toronto, which highlights specific items from different local businesses, is another initiative that Lay said the BIA will partake in this year. The program was introduced as a way to promote these businesses when in-person purchases were halted by the province's second lockdown.
The Riverside community borders Don Valley East, Leslieville and the Danforth in the city’s east end.
Listen to Jennifer Lay's full interview here: