Re-Opening in the age of Covid-19

I started this post shortly after our first weekend in January. Back then I was excited to report that business had been good. We spent the first weekend greeting guests, explaining about vendor space and getting terrific feedback on the store, the layout, and what we could do better. We appreciated all comments, and still do! And then…mid-March. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and out of an abundance of caution, the city council and mayor of Helen announced that we could no longer, in good conscience, keep any businesses open that were not essential.

Well, as much as we love antiques and believe that they enrich people’s lives, we had to agree that they are wonderful, but not essential to life and health. We agreed that it would have been irresponsible to remain open while citizens were being told to shelter in place.

Finally, after what seemed a very long time away from our beloved store, the time came on May 8th when we felt that it was okay to reopen, while implementing some stringent health and safety guidelines. We have chose to require masks or other face coverings be used by all staff AND customers. We follow a stringent cleaning regimen, provide free hand sanitizer for guests, and ensured that no more than the allowable number of customers per square foot occupy the store at any one time.

Since we required face coverings, we also made surgical masks available to those who needed them for a nominal fee. Customers receive a credit for the cost of their masks with any purchase of $25 or more. The vast majority of our visitors are accepting, even pleased, with these precautions. Many customers have even thanked us for being more cautious than most, and said they felt safe while in our store.

Of course, opinions vary…and comments from those who object to the face covering policy can be most entertaining. Sentiments ranged from the “I ain’t paying just to look around” set, to the “It’s worse for you to wear one than not” school of thought. And one of my favorites: “No other store is requiring them.” That argument never worked with my parents when I was a kid, and it won’t work with us. Masks or other face coverings will be required in Wonderland until we are satisfied that the pandemic has been contained. I’m very puzzled that some folks aren’t taking this seriously. Our store is located in a tourist town that attracts people from all over, including some of the hottest COVID-19 hot-spots: New York, Florida, London, and yes, even China. The last thing we want is for one of our visitors to take home an unwelcomed souvenir.

Some might argue that we are being “over the top” and taking too many precautions. I suspect those sentiments would vanish if it were one of their own loved ones who contracted this potentially deadly and unpredictable disease.

So, until the statistics tell us that the danger has largely passed, we will continue to: control customer volume; provide hand sanitizer to every customer; provide controlled access to restrooms; provide hot and cold running water for hand washing in our restrooms; sanitize after every restroom use; keep an eye on what is being touched and handled and sanitize after each customer leaves; clean and sanitize the credit card machine and checkout stand between every customer; waive the $15 minimum for credit or debit purchases, and, yes, require face coverings for every customer over the age of 3. Our customers deserve it.

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