A bevy of northeastern Kentucky businesses enjoyed the highly anticipated moment of reopening their doors on Wednesday morning.
Jessica Leighty, of the Trophy House in Ashland, posted five photos of the inside and outside of her shop on Facebook and declared, “Here we go! I’ve taken every precaution I could think of for my staff and my customers.”
Bobby James, owner of James Family Outfitters in Grayson, was happy to reopen, as the store closed on March 24.
But James said the store, which sells footwear, apparel and accessories, began curb service on April 6 to find customers loved it.
“We had a lot of spring stuff that just came in that people hadn’t even seen,” he said. “We put all our merchandise on Facebook and offered curb service for seven weeks.”
He said curbside service has been very popular. “We even have a chair outside if you want to try something on,” he said.
Wednesday’s opening began the store’s Memorial Day Sale and Grand Reopening.
Like most businesses, James Family Outfitters practices social distancing and workers wear masks.
“We’re supplying hand sanitizers and masks, if customers want one,” James said. “The floors are marked every 6 feet. We have Plexiglass at the cash registers.”
While customers seemed to appreciate the chance to get out and shop in person in a safe environment, James said he still has customers who are more comfortable with curbside pickup.
“If you’ve got someone elderly or with health issues, or some people just really like it,” he said. “Some people just aren’t ready to mix in public, so we’re going to offer it for the next couple of months, until things get back to normal, as much as normal can be.”
The Olive Hill community was excited about Tackett’s Furniture’s reopening on Wednesday.
“We opened at 10 a.m. and we had someone waiting in the parking lot,” owner Debbie Harman said.
That customer had messaged her on Facebook about getting a white porch swing as soon as possible.
“We have some on display in the window,” she said. “Yesterday, the message was ‘I’ll be there tomorrow to pick it up.’”
Technology has been a major player in the store’s reopening. Harman said during the closure, she received many business-related texts and Facebook .
“The convenience of Facebook is really good,” the third-generation store owner said. “People can get in touch with you and find out things. It’s really been helpful.”
Store employees are wearing masks and maintaining the 6-foot distance recommended by the Center for Disease Control. Hand sanitizer is available at the front door, and Harman said she will post guidelines in the store in hopes that customers will follow the rules, too.
“It seems like most people are wearing masks and are really good about social distancing,” Harmon said.
She said whether customers come in to browse or message her about what they want, business will likely hum along.
“People are getting their stimulus money, so they’ll be getting items they have wanted,” she said.
Tackett’s has been in Olive Hill since 1936.
Two businesses in Greenup County, both at the J & J Plaza on U.S. 23 near the Greenup city limits, show just how unique coronavirus-related challenges can be for individual businesses.
Thomas Sewing Center has been in business for quite some time and has built up a loyal customer base of patrons who know they can depend upon them for their sewing needs. The business was forced to close its showroom to the public due to pandemic safety restrictions, but it was able to maintain a new channel of business flow.
“Fortunately, we are a business that is in high demand,” said Kat Layne, who works at Thomas Sewing Center in sales and inventory. “Pretty much everyone in the area that can sew has been sewing face masks. So we have stayed very busy, considering the overall climate right now.”
Thomas Sewing Center offered telephone orders and curbside pickup during the shutdown, but Wednesday it opened its doors to the public under the guidelines set for a limited restart of its face-to-face business. .
“Everyone in the store is wearing facemasks and gloves, and we’re limiting capacity to five customers in the showroom at one time,” Layne said. “We have the entire floor marked out with 6-foot spacing, and we’re cleaning and sanitizing on a regular schedule. And we are trying to limit as much contact as possible with the customer. We have moved the credit card point of sale terminals to the outside of the counter to maintain as much space as we can. And we are still offering curbside service, and any machine a customer buys we will ship to their house for free. We are still shipping from our online store as well.
“It’s kind of a team effort,” Layne added. “And we have been working hard to help our customers meet their needs.”
Barks & Bubbles, a pet grooming business at the same plaza, has been faced with different challenges during the pandemic. Business owner Lacy Stafford said she had followed all the guidance from the state government and had shut down her business completely in late March based on those restrictions. Stafford was able to begin a slow reopening on May 11, but in many ways she said the damage had already been done and some losses could never be recouped. And there have been changes that needed implementing in order for her to again offer all of her services.
“We are offering everything again,” Stafford said. “But we are doing curbside pickup, rather than have anyone enter the facility.”
Curbside pickup in her case, Stafford said, entails an employee with a mask and gloves taking the animal from the vehicle, and then returning it to the owner once the procedure is finished.
“We aren’t running full staff, because of the need to keep people separated,” Stafford said.
The pet grooming business has a small retail space as well, but she isn’t able to utilize it currently because her lobby is still closed to the public. The business is taking phone appointments, and is currently booked through June 20, Stafford said. The volume of appointments is a source of relief to Stafford, given that she has been forced to meet expenses with no new revenue being generated, but she also said that part of this is due to being short-staffed at the moment. She looks forward to the restrictions being more relaxed in the future, depending on subsequent guidelines.
Stafford said she is determined to offer her customers everything she offered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the revenue she lost during the shutdown is simply that — lost. The nature of her business, she said, relies heavily upon scheduled business with certain pets receiving grooming at certain times. A pet that wasn’t groomed in April, for instance, won’t be groomed twice in May. So the pandemic has essentially removed almost a quarter of her yearly revenue.
“But we’re going to make it,” Stafford said. “We are going to do everything we can, and follow all of the state guidelines. And we want people to know that we are here to meet their needs.”
Zella Rose reopened to the public as well.
"We are taking it slow in the beginning and will build up gradually to our normal store hours," said owner Kelli Long Elkins. "We're only allowing three customers at a time, and it seemed to work perfectly. We are taking all precautions necessary for a safe and healthy shopping experience."