CORNWALL -- Mrs. B's Gifts and Home Décor in Cornwall is a small store filled with unique items for special occasions and holidays.

Owner Barbara Laduc was worried about keeping customers two-metres apart, so she came up with an idea called "BYOB."

"BYOB was kind of the acronym that we are using and it was just kind of a cool idea, people kind of think of it as alcohol but that not what’s involved," Leduc said with a smile standing outside the store in Cornwall.

"It’s bring your own bubble - that’s to keep you safe and to keep all of us safe."

It works by inviting customers to book private times where they can shop in her store safely.

"You can bring anywhere from one to 10 people and those times will be before or after the store is open. This way you can book a half hour or even an hour depending on the number of people that are coming," said Leduc.

Leduc added it’s also a great way to provide contact tracing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"If anything should happen we can contact that person, let them know and then from there they can continue down the line of who ever came at that time frame."

Leduc has only been promoting the idea for a couple weeks, and also reached out to the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce so they would be in the loop.

"Mrs. B’s has been a long time store here in town, very popular," said Greg Pietersma, the executive director of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.

"Barbara came up with this unique, creative way to offer a safe shopping environment to people. We’re going to be promoting the list of stores that are offering this service on the Chamber Facebook page."

He also noted that 11 stores are now taking part in the initiative.

"I think it shows two things - it shows the creativity but it also shows that our businesses are not just sitting around, waiting for grants and handouts," Pietersma said.

"They are trying to solve problems their own way with solutions that work with this community to help them survive the pandemic and provide a local shopping experience for the residents of Cornwall and the area."

Life's Little Pleasure

Chris Munro, who owns Life’s Little Pleasure in downtown Cornwall is also using the idea.

"As a business in downtown Cornwall or anywhere actually, we are looking for initiatives for people to feel engaged with their local businesses and offering a safe environment to do so," Munro said.

"It can be a fun experience as well. I’ve been here a long time and I've always had a vision for the downtown and it finally feels like its all coming together, and pandemic or not we’ve all supported each other, we really do lean on each other and we depend on each other to be here when this is all over."

Leduc believes any store in the province can put her idea into motion, especially for a smaller store where keeping two metres apart can be difficult.

"You can book these little times where you can meet customers and you'll know ahead of time how many are coming so its a way of getting a little extra out of the season but also maintaining that distance," Leduc said.

"Safety is our number one priority - not just for our staff and their families but also for our customers. We don't want to be the cause of anyone getting sick, we don't want to spread this at all," said Leduc.

"We want to really keep everybody as safe as we possibly can even though sometimes (people) don’t care to maintain that distance or to follow those procedures, but we try our best. "

Downtown Cornwall

Both store owners said it is also helps the shop local movement.

"Our customers were so loyal to us.  They want to help out these local businesses that are hurting it’s really important," said Leduc.

"I’d just like to say thank you for the people that have supported us even pre pandemic, thank them for their business as always," added Munro.

If other businesses are looking to adapt the bring your own bubble idea, they are encouraged to contact the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.

"They can reach us through our website or Facebook page and we can certainly put them on our site. Even if they aren't members, we are looking to support all the businesses at this time," said Pietersma.