As North Carolina launches its three-phase plan to lift Covid-19 restrictions and restart the economy, Swannanoa Valley business owners are "welcoming patrons, but many are unsure what to expect," the Valley Echo reported.
Among those owners are Susanne and Cole Blumer of Sassafras on Sutton in Black Mountain, who expected April to be a big month. In February, they had announced plans for an expansion that would include the top floor of their historic building. The new space finally made its debut last Saturday.
"We had just gotten all of our merchandise delivered when the quarantine happened," Susanne Blumer said. "But the positive thing is that it gave me time to make it perfect. The timing could have been better, but it looks amazing now and we're excited for everyone to see it."
Although Sassafras had to furlough its staff when stay-at-home orders went into effect March 26, about 80% of employees are returning to work, and Blumer said reopening brings a mixture of "excitement and apprehension.... There are a lot of unknowns, but we are going to try to mitigate the risks the best we can. Luckily, we have a lot of space so we can practice social distancing fairly easily. We will limit the number of people in our store, but not to the extent we're allowed. We can have up to 100 people in here based on the regulations, but we won't have that many."
Sassafras has been scheduling customer appointments to limit the number of people in the building at one time, but will accommodate walk-in patrons as well, the Valley Echo noted. A table with hand sanitizer is set up in front of the Cherry Street entrance, while the Sutton Avenue entrance will remain closed.
"I have a feeling downtown will be kind of busy," Blumer said. "People are ready to get out of their homes, but I expect things will slow down next week. Until Phase III kicks in, I don't think we'll be consistently busy and it's hard for me to imagine things getting back to normal until next year."
|The new Bookloft in progress
Pamela Pescosolido, who purchased the Bookloft, Great Barrington, Mass., in 2016 and was in the process of relocating to a new space this spring before the Covid-19 pandemic interfered with that plan, chronicled her experiences getting to this point--along with her vision for the way forward--in a column for the Berkshire Edge.
"Construction was slated for completion at the beginning of April," she recalled. "Our lease at the Plaza was ending on April 30. We planned to move the store and be ready to reopen in the last days of April. And then the pandemic occurred....
"I am trying to plan for what it may be like to reopen after we are allowed to. I wonder how a bookstore--a place where nearly every customer picks up and puts down a multitude of books and other items during the course of browsing--will feel for people suddenly acutely wary of the virus and of other people. I think we will have to require masks or face coverings for all customers, and we will require that hand sanitizer be used upon entering the store.
"I have been thinking that at first we may be open by appointment only, allowing maybe 15 customers in each hour so that social distancing can be maintained. If at first we are allowed to only open for curbside pickup, it will be manageable for a time, but a large portion of our normal sales come from people browsing and finding books they didn't know they wanted. If people cannot come in and browse and discover new things.... I don't know. For that reason I hope we will be able to get back to some semblance of our normal retail operation in the not too distant future. Don't hold me to this, because of course it depends upon government mandate (as well as final approval by the building inspector!), but I hope we will be able to open for Memorial Day weekend in some capacity."
Hello hello books, Rockland, Maine, has relaunched curbside pickup of books and merchandise ordered online and improved its system for pickups to make it more flexible for customers.
Owner Lacy Simons noted that "we know restrictions on retail in specific Maine counties were lifted a bit at the end of last week, and that we're technically allowed to be open again, with obvious guidelines. But that will not be happening for awhile yet. Though I'm proud of the work our Governor has been doing, and how invested in and informed by science she has been, I'm not at all comfortable with the idea that a low infection rate in some counties (just as we're starting to see an influx of visitors, and hearing so many tales of those visitors completely ignoring self-quarantine rules after they enter the state) means we're safe to dive back in. I'm making some plans I'll get into a bit more next week, but I wanted to communicate how seriously we're still taking this. We've been relatively lucky in Maine, and I don't want to see that change."