Retail store owners are optimistic about a reopening of commerce on Wednesday and said their customers are ready to come back.
Gov. Ned Lamont included retail in a list of businesses that can reopen with restrictions on May 20. In addition to caps on occupancy and the requirement to wear masks if people can’t stay six feet apart, store owners said they’re figuring out for themselves how to keep people safe.
Gregg Kobrin, owner of New England Dive in Wallingford, said his shop was deemed essential since it provides rescue equipment to emergency workers. They’ve done curbside service, even for kayaks, but said most of their customers prefer to browse the shelves.
“We’ve been selling stuff here and there, but you can’t walk around and check stuff out,” Kobrin said.
He’s expecting to be busy since the shop sells supplies for fishing, scuba diving and kayaking.
“Our activities themselves are small groups,” Kobrin said. “It’s the perfect thing to be able to go out and still social distance.”
Employees will be cleaning the store regularly and making sure people don’t congregate. Kobrin said his customers have been pushing him to open.
“They want to get out and go diving, go snorkeling, go fishing, go kayaking,” he said.
Eric and Christina DeVeau opened The Raven’s Nest gaming and hobby shop in Southington shortly before the shutdown.
Much of the shop is filled with tables for various strategy and card games. That aspect of the business can’t take place, Christina DeVeau said, but customers can still come in and get paints and other supplies to ready their miniature armies for when gaming returns.
“We’re hoping that within another month or so people can start having games again,” she said.
She’s encouraged by the excitement among followers online but is hesitant after hearing Lamont rescinded his plan to allow barbershops and salons to open.
“I’m afraid they’re going to say that to us too,” Christina DeVeau said.
New Age shop
Chris Olan, co-owner of Hidden Gem on Main in Wallingford, doesn’t think the customers of her New Age shop will be hesitant to visit.
“I don’t believe many of the customers we have are fearful. They may be cautious, but I think a lot of people are ready for some sort of human contact,” Olan said.
Yoga and other classes the shop offers have been postponed but Olan is hopeful that people visiting nearby restaurants for outdoor dining will stop by while walking around Wallingford’s downtown.
Hidden Gem isn’t usually packed but Olan said she or her co-owner Julie Dokas will keep an eye on the crowds.
“One day at a time. It’s unprecedented,” Olan said.
Will customers venture out?
Barbara Hekeler-Coleman, Southington Chamber of Commerce president, said she’s working to encourage residents to support the local businesses that are opening up again.
Only time will tell if people are ready to frequent shops again in sufficient numbers for businesses to stay open.
“Where does consumer confidence lie?” Hekeler-Coleman said. “(We won’t know) until they actually open and we see what kind of traffic happens.”