By Matt Horwood
The Westboro Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) has welcomed Judy Lincoln as its new executive director. The Winnipeg native, who has worked and volunteered in Westboro since 2004, officially started in her new position on May 11.
Lincoln takes over the position from former Executive Director Michelle Groulx, whose last official day is May 29. Lincoln said Groulx has laid out “some fantastic programs and great groundwork” that she is excited to build off of and that Groulx has been a huge help with getting her up to speed on the projects.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Lincoln’s parents owned and operated a business which allowed her to understand “the realities many of our business owners face.” When she moved to Ottawa, Lincoln became manager of Ten Thousand Villages — a national, non-profit social enterprise that partners with independent artisan groups, co-ops and workshops from around the world to bring their wares to Ottawa. She managed the Westboro business for over a decade.
Through the enterprise, Lincoln has supported local charities like the Westboro Region Food Bank and Cornerstone Housing for Women. Lincoln said her family has also been “highly committed” to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) for several years. Her son Eli was chosen as this year’s CHEO Champion.
Becoming executive director during a global pandemic has been “odd and interesting,” according to Lincoln. Through it, she said she remains focused on supporting businesses through these challenging times and furthering Westboro’s potential.
Lincoln said an important, current priority for the BIA has been to find ways to best support Westboro businesses, especially restaurants and retail stores.
“How we would have done that last year is different now; the pandemic changed everything,” she said.
The new executive director said the BIA has been relaying information and updates from all levels of government to Westboro businesses, so they can “make the best and safest decisions for them and their staff.” Lincoln said when the Ontario government announced Phase 1 of its plan to reopen the economy — allowing businesses with street entrances to open — the BIA encouraged Westboro Village shops to do so “only if they are ready.”
“We’ve been getting non-stop updates from businesses as they make decisions on how or when to open,” Lincoln said. “Their primary focus is safety of customers and staff.”
Many businesses in Westboro Village have adapted during the pandemic by switching to online orders and curbside pickup models, so the BIA is encouraging them “to build on those strengths and to do so safely.”
Unfortunately, Westboro Village will not be able to host any street events or festivals this year due to COVID-19, Lincoln said. But beautification projects for the summer will continue, as well as plans to redo the gateway mural on Churchill.
For Lincoln, it is “the businesses and the people behind them” that make Westboro Village unique. As executive director, she wants to encourage residents to shop local and build connections with local businesses.
“Like many others, we have to ask: how do we do it safely, and how do we do it in a way that supports business owners with the challenges they are facing?” she said.
Over the years, Lincoln said she has built great personal relationships with many business owners, employees and customers in Westboro, and she is excited to continue doing so.
“I look forward to hearing from all the members, listening to their concerns and working as a team to get a strong voice for what their needs are right now,” Lincoln said.
“We will get through this together by building our community and sticking together,” she added.