As coronavirus spreads, people are getting more cautious and creative with their social interactions.
As small business owners throughout the nation look to reopen after being shuttered for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, some say they are weighing public health with economic need.
In Wisconsin, Debbie Lauer, who owns the home decor store Up The Creek in downtown Cedarburg, says she got to work coronavirus-proofing her store after the state Supreme Court shot down Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order that kept many non-essential businesses closed.
Reopening guidelines vary by state, and some cities and counties have additional criteria.
Lauer added new marks on the floor to help customers maintain 6 feet of separation for social distancing. Shoppers are encouraged to use sanitizer before touching items and to wear masks, though that is not required.
She is limiting store capacity to five people for now but said she might increase that to 10 this weekend.
“For my sanity, 10 people is max for me,” Lauer said. “I honestly don’t think there will be more people than that, but it would be a nice problem to have.”
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Though business regulations in Cedarburg are the same as they were before COVID-19, business owners and consumers are not the same.
“Our biggest concern is that they won’t come in and, with the way the economy is, if they do come in, will they spend any money?” Lauer said.
Holistic health and decor store Sissy & Me, also in Cedarburg, is taking more precautions. During the quarantine, owner Toni Murrenus and her daughter, Jessica, found that curbside business was a good alternative.
While the business was closed, they set up an honor system for curbside items so customers could purchase an item and leave money or a check in an unmanned cash box. The store was open last weekend, but only six customers came inside.
“The problem was we had just ordered our spring and summer outdoor decor, and it was going to be a total loss if we didn’t do something,” Murrenus said. “A few people gave themselves a sale. We kind of expected that, but the loss was just under $50 of what it would have been.”
Murrenus will continue to depend on curbside sales, although she will be at the store more often to let people inside if they ask and to make credit card transactions.
“We have not really opened doors,” she said. “Maybe we’re going to have to map out and put the tape on the floor where people should stand and hold it to five or under in the store because it’s not very big.”
Murrenus said it is hard to figure out what to do with the varying reactions to coronavirus among the community.
“Some people just don’t worry about it. They’re not nervous or scared, and others are very conscious, and I don’t see too many in the middle,” she said. “I’m just not really sure what I’m supposed to do.”
The Cedarburg Toy Co. planned to start allowing customers inside the store beginning Memorial Day weekend.
The slow reopening was in part because owner Natasha Loos took time to add features to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and she has been busy turning her business space back into a storefront after it was transformed to a warehouse for online sales.
For Loos, the two-month closure created a silver lining and she set up an online toy shop for the first time. Her sales declined only a small amount compared to normal.
“I don’t want to sound insensitive to people who struggled more than we did in the shutdown, but in many ways, it turned out to be positive for our business,” Loos said. “March, April and May aren’t the busiest months, so we know not to expect huge sales during that time, and being closed to the public allowed us to get some things done.”
Like her neighboring businesses, she plans to have hand sanitizer stations and reduced capacity.
“The virus will be with us for some time, so we have to figure out how to be comfortable with customers in the store,” she said. “If you’re in retail, you just have to figure out how to get there.”
Contributing: Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY
Follow Jordyn Noennig on Twitter: @JordynTNoennig.
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