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.
Colleen Mauer, Colleen Mauer Designs
First reaction to Mayor Breed's announcement that retail could open for curbside pickup?
"In all honesty, it makes me a little nervous as there are still so many unknowns with the current situation. Nonetheless, I am excited for a bit of a morale boost for our community."
Do you think the time is right for this limited opening?
"My gut tells me we should be waiting longer to see how things pan out in other areas of the country. I realize everyone is excited for Main Street to reopen and together we can tweak things as we go."
Do you plan to open this week?
"Yes, we will be opening Tuesday to Saturday between 12pm and 4pm for curbside pickup. I have no plans to reopen the store until we have more data to support the effects of [fully] re-opening while in the midst of a pandemic."
Have you been offering any special deals to spur shopping?
"Back in mid-March, CMD began offering virtual shopping sessions for this year's sample sale. This event has always been the biggest and most popular sale of the year among locals. Previously, we held the sale in person at the SF shop. Due to the current health crisis and restrictions for retail businesses, we created a virtual model so we could 'meet' our customers in person. We've been pleasantly surprised by the results of our efforts. I've met with nearly 175 people so far—normally we host 300 to 400 people during the sale so we still have a lot of inventory to sell. We've also been selling sample-sale pieces on Instagram Stories.
Are you doing anything outside of the guidelines that you feel is important?
"We'll make sure that all pickup times are staggered so that no more than one customer comes at a time. And we plan to take care of payment ahead of time so that there doesn't need to be any physical exchange."
Are your employees ready and willing to get back to work?
"They are, but we're only having a small crew working remotely until things start to pick up again. One of my production workers is still able to produce jewelry from her home studio in Upstate New York. My marketing gal is also remote from the East Coast. I don't plan to hire back our entire team until we have the revenue to support them."
Generally, how has your business been doing since shelter in place and were you already prepared with an online shopping site?
"Considering the circumstances, we've had a rather successful couple of months. We started meeting customers via FaceTime the week that SF's shelter in place began. We put a landing page on our website so that customers could easily sign up for a virtual appointment. Fortunately, our new website was launched at the end of 2019 so we felt prepared for more online shopping."
Has there been any point during the pandemic where you thought you may have to permanently shutter your brick-and-mortar?
"Yes…and it's still a real possibility though I'm staying optimistic and patient while we see how things pan out."
Anything else you want to add?
"My heart feels warm in so many ways—I've seen our neighbors come out of the woodwork to support one another. I'm excited to see a vibrant Valencia once again."
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