On Monday, for the first time in two months, customers began walking into retail shops and businesses across Lamoille County.
According to the frontline workers of retail, most customers seemed pretty happy just to be able to actually walk through the front door into the building.
“Our customers are ecstatic; it’s good to be open again,” said Denise Ballard at Caplan’s Shoe and Apparel in Morrisville.
“Most have said it’s nice to get back out and in the store,” said Emily Locke, owner of Peck’s Flower Shop.
May 18 marked the reopening of in-person, in-house and face-to-face business for Vermont’s retailers — with lots of cautionary restrictions.
Some retailers have been offering curbside pickup in recent weeks, as the shutdown to slow the spread of coronavirus has been relaxed bit by bit. Others stayed closed until Gov. Phil Scott allowed people back into stores, albeit with new safety standards in place.
“This is our first day back in business,” said Brent Miller at Miller’s Country Outfitters in Morristown. The Miller family stayed closed during the shutdown.
“We went on a two-month vacation,” Miller joked.
Customers had planned for days to celebrate the long-awaited retail reopening.
“We had some people calling over the last couple of days; they all said they were waiting to actually come into the store,” said Samuel Guihan, an employee at Olympia Sports. “People are excited to be going out again, for some kind of normalcy.”
While many retailers opened on the dot of May 18, with masks on and staff trained to new safety guidelines, others were taking their time to reopen.
The Forget-Me-Knot Shop in Johnson won’t open until Saturday, when it will resume its regular schedule.
“We hope to see you soon,” the business’s voicemail says.
The business pace on opening day varied from store to store.
It was slow and steady at Miller’s Country Outfitters, located on busy Route 100, where it doesn’t get much foot traffic.
“We’ve had some good sales today, but I thought there would be a little more activity after having been closed for so long,” Miller said. “But, it will get there when it gets there.”
Things were hopping as soon as Olympia Sports unlocked its doors in the Morrisville Plaza.
“We definitely had a surge right when we opened,” Guihan said.
“We’ve been pretty busy. People are happy to have us open,” said Ballard at Caplan’s.
Bikes sales have been brisk during the pandemic, and that trend continued Monday at Power Play Sports in Morrisville.
“Bike sales are hot; team sports are dead,” Dan Frederick, a Power Play employee, said Monday. “A couple of bikes went out the door so far this morning.”
For other businesses, opening the doors was the culmination of a slow build-up; that began weeks ago with curbside pickup and even delivery.
At Peck’s, Locke was offering both, delivering orders in her van and dropping off flowers provided she could avoid close contact with anyone.
She’s happy to reopen, but she lost a lot of business around Mother’s Day, a busy time for flowers.
And with no proms, graduations or weddings for the foreseeable future, she thinks business could be slow in general through the summer.
New safety standards
Under state rules, all retail staff members are required by law to wear face masks at work, but customers don’t. Most retailers said about half their customers were following health recommendations and wearing some kind of face cover.
“It was probably about 50-50 today,” Miller said. Businesses can require that anyone entering the building wear a mask, but most let customers make their own call.
“We have to wear masks, but our customers don’t, and we aren’t going to tell them they have to,” Miller said.
“It’s like the grocery store, about 50-50,” Guihan said, although he does think people are “starting to be more lax” as fears of the pandemic diminish.
“It’s been a mixed bag with masks,” said Frederick at Power Play, with about half wearing them and half not.
“A lot lower than I thought it would be,” he said.
Locke said that most of her customers were practicing proper social distancing, mask or no mask.
“They’re being respectful,” she said.
“People are able to get out more, and they’re taking advantage,” Ballard said. “It’s going well; people are happy.”