Turns out local clothing, beauty, and accessories shops don't have a one-size-fits-all approach to Phase 2 of the reopening process.
After two months of being closed per the city's first stay-at-home order, certain "non-essential" store owners are happy to open up. Some are just not ready. And others, frankly, don't see the point in opening strictly for curbside pickup. Mixed feelings about the retail guidelines aside, everyone agrees that today's move is but a baby step. (Still, we'll take it.)
Not gonna lie: Last Wednesday when I saw online that Mayor Breed announced San Francisco retail businesses—including shops beyond the previously cited florists, game and hobby shops, and record and bookstores—would soon be given the OK to reopen, I got a head rush. Immediately, visions of a camo-masked me making the rounds at my favorite boutiques on Fillmore (Nest), Hayes (Azalea), and Valencia (Voyager) flashed in my brain. Then I kept reading.
Wait, what exactly does "open for curbside pickup and delivery" mean vis-à-vis shopping? Is the mayor saying I can't actually go into any stores but I have to procure those much-needed tie-dye sweatshirts, candles and lounge pants the same way I've been getting my pizza, fried chicken, and bento-boxes…by ordering online for takeout only?
Yep, that's precisely what she's saying.
More detailed guidelines, spelling out what local stores have to do in order to open, were released from The Office of the Mayor on Thursday, May 14th. "Allowing retail to operate storefront pickup is a great step for our small businesses, which have been struggling since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that will be allowed to open next week won't be able to operate like they used to, but this hopefully offers a measure of support," Breed says.
Guidelines at a Glance
The first thing to know: The new retail guidelines apply only to businesses whose storefronts connect to the street (sorry, Westfield SF Centre). According to Breed, this includes about 95 percent of all retailers in the city.
Additionally, previous rules to stay home except for essential needs and approved activities continue. Translation: These guidelines are N-O-T a license to shop or browse with abandon. Social distancing rules and wearing masks/face coverings while queuing up or inside businesses are also required, for both customers and store employees.
Plus, in order to reopen, stores must meet these conditions:
- Customers may not enter the store: only storefront, curbside, or outside pickup are allowed.
- No more than 10 employees may be on site at once to handle curbside pickup.
- Stores must have clear access to a sidewalk, street, parking lot, or alley to handle curbside pickup.
Indeed, Monday's curbside reopening can't come soon enough for the city's small businesses, according to Vas Kiniris, executive director of the Fillmore Merchants Association: "It's a Band-Aid, but the point is we have to slowly start opening the economy."
"With COVID-19, there's a new level of uncertainty that's affecting all our merchants and they're rethinking their business models. On Fillmore alone, the 150-year-old Frye Boots has decided to close. Also, mom-and-pop business Asmbly Hall is closing its Fillmore location," he adds.
What say you, SF shops?
As soon as we learned about (and processed) the reopening news, we reached out to several beloved SF shop owners for their take. Of course, our main question was regarding curbside pickup: yay or nay? We also checked in to see how some businesses have been holding up since the coronavirus came to town and, ya know, upended everything.
With answers as varied as the stuff that lines their shelves, we thought it best to let our friends speak for themselves. Scroll thought our slideshow to hear from: Jessica Lee, Colleen Mauer, Emily Holt, Linda Fahey, Isobel Schofield, Kiya Babzani, Basil Racuk, Pauline Montupet, and Debra Dobras.
Basil Racuk, Basil Racuk
Do you think the time is right for this gradual opening?
"As long as we as merchants are conscientious about how we engage with our customers, I'm fine with the gradual opening."
Do you plan to open this week?
"I'm not sure. It's not only about the ability to open. There are other considerations that I am still struggling with around my space."
Will you be offering any special deals to spur shopping during this time?
"When I do open, my plan is to offer deals. As with most retailers, I have merchandise that isn't as relevant as it was even 60 days ago."
Have you changed up your merch mix to make it more "stay at home" friendly?
"No question. I expect to have a lot more home-focused merchandise. I've been thinking about the need for things that bring comfort. What that means for me is still unknown."
What do you have to do to meet the guidelines?
"I work out of a very small space—around 300 square feet. Distancing is an option, but barely."
Are there any guidelines that will be hard to meet?
No browsing is an issue. My pieces are unique, and browsing is a central part of the shopping experience. I'll need to give that a lot more thought."
Are your employees ready and willing to get back to work?
"I'm the employee. I'm ready to go back, but I'm not in a hurry. I prefer to take some time and return with a new experience that makes sense in this new world. I may take another week or two before I open my shop again."
Generally, how has your business been doing since the first Stay Home order?
"I've done around 60 percent of my usual sales. Those sales are from masks that I began making when sheltering took effect. I've been working really hard to make the small amount that I've made, but that money is well-earned, and I'm glad to be of service with the masks."
Has there been a point during the pandemic where you thought you may have to permanently shutter your brick-and-mortar?
"Not at all. I was set up to withstand this without too much pain."
How has local support been from customers and fellow store owners?
"This is a great place to shout-out to Bernie (of Bernie's Cafe), who has a legacy business next door to mine. She has been the town crier for all of us with shops on 24th Street. She really kept me aware of everything that was happening on the block as things began to take place for the extended closure."
What are your hopes for your business as we move forward?
"It's such a hard question to answer. My business is based on a business model from the 1920s, not the 2020s. I work directly with my customers, creating custom pieces. We sit together and build them a piece to their specifications. Taking the closeness out of the equation will require me to re-evaluate everything that makes what I do special."
Anything else you want to add?
"Of course, I wish everyone a healthy re-entry, and the clarity to appreciate the specialness of what we bring to this city as retailers. Best of luck!"
Please support these and all your favorite local stores. Buying gift cards for future services, products, and even just checking in to say hi can do a world of good in these precarious times. #7x7shopslocal