Monday, May 18, marked the day in the coronavirus timeline when retail shops could reopen in Minnesota, providing business owners with income they couldn't match in online or curbside sales alone.
“We are very, very pleased to be able to reopen," said Kim Dietrich, owner of Quilter’s JEM, which sits along Central Avenue North West in East Grand Forks. Dietrich added that her store has been busy since being allowed to reopen to the public.
The sewing shop was previously open by appointment only and was considered essential. That designation allowed people to buy sewing machines and cloth to make masks at a time when supplies of the face covering were being rerouted to medical providers. Like all other retail shops in Minnesota, Dietrich’s can open to the public, though at 50% capacity, and each shop needs to have created what Minnesota state guidelines are calling a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
In Dietrich's case, 50% capacity is a lot of people as her business is in a 5,000-square-foot store. She released a newsletter to her regular customers asking them to wait to come in if there are more than two cars in the parking lot.
“You can come in, use your social distancing skills, but, if there are more than that, then just wait until someone leaves,” Dietrich said.
Those guidelines were set forth in Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-56, which took effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, May 17. It rescinded his previous order shuttering retail and other businesses and encourages people to wear masks when in public. At the same time, those in at-risk groups for COVID-19 are recommended to stay home, and unnecessary travel is discouraged. Social gatherings of 10 or more are still prohibited, though that prohibition does not include commercial activity for employees and customers at either essential or non-essential businesses.
Penni Anderson owns Simply Boutique, a women’s clothing store with locations in East Grand Forks and Warren, Minnesota. She said she feels good about reopening and is confident in her preparedness plan. Online business and curb-side pickup, can’t replace the income from walk in customers, she said.
“Your online business is great; it's usually a supplement, but, when you focus most of your activities around your brick brick and mortar, that's just the way you're set up with your events and everything else that you do,” Anderson said.
Not included in the order to reopen are bars, restaurants, barbershops, hair and nail salons, and a bevy of other businesses and entertainment venues where people congregate. According to information published on mn.gov, these establishments pose a higher risk of infection.
According to Executive Order 20-56, a phased plan to reopen these businesses will be presented to the public on Wednesday, May 20, with the goal of having them reopen, albeit in limited capacity, on June 1.
For now, Dietrich is glad to see customers back in her store, even if they need to keep their distance, and she has to keep to an increased cleaning regimen.
“Just to be able to be open and let people come in without having my door locked is wonderful,” Dietrich said.