Retail stores look forward to reopening after weeks of curbside restrictions

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Monday marks the first time in weeks that many retail stores will be able to have customers browsing their products while inside the stores and business owners say it is much needed.

For Vintage Treasures Antique Mall, not being able to allow customers inside the building since March 23 has not been great for business.

“It has been rough,” said owner Jonele Bilby. “We’ve been doing a lot of curbside pickups with Instagram and Facebook posting.”

They have been trying to move as much product for their 85 vendors as they can, but Bilby says their numbers from April came in 80 percent lower than where they should be. Governor Eric Holcomb’s #backontrack plan, which reopens businesses in stages, will allow for retail stores to bring customers in at 50 percent capacity starting Monday, May 4. For Vintage Treasures Antique Mall, that is about 150 people, and while they are looking forward to reopening their doors, there is also some anxiety over it.

“It was a mixed reaction. You’re so excited, it’s like, yes, finally, we get to open, and then the nerves kick in. What do we have to do to keep my employees protected? What do I need to do to make sure that the customers are protected?”

Their answer is to require employees to wear masks when dealing directly with customers, and to set up reminders to social distance around the store. They will also put out hand sanitizing around the store, a measure that The Lighthouse Family Thrift Store will take as well. The Lighthouse Family Thrift Store will be reopening on Tuesday and will allow 25 people in their store at once. Along with a thorough cleaning procedure, employees will be wearing masks, and they recommend that customers do as well. 

The store was able to make some sales online but still lost about $7,000 in revenue by not being able to open its doors in April. Bower said the hardest part about losing that the money is that it otherwise would have gone to support The Lighthouse Recovery homes, which support men and women struggling with addiction.

“We needed to be back open,” said Bradon Bower, Program Director for The Lighthouse Recovery Center. “We could’ve probably lasted another month but it would’ve really hurt things. Especially when you’re helping people and you need all that money to support their needs and pay for the utilities in the houses that they stay in and help them with food and counseling, things like that.”

An unanticipated problem of closing done is that while they have made fewer sales, people have been donating more items than usual because they have been stuck at home and able to go through their belongings. That means that on top of bringing in less money, they now have a larger inventory to turn around. Their solution to that is to hold an outdoor sale in the parking lot on May 9.

“We’re going to put a bunch of tables outside, which is nice because the air is blowing and it’s going to be less chance of contamination.”

You can read more on Holcomb’s #BackonTrack plan here.

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