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.
Isobel Schofield, Bryr
Do you plan to open this week?
"We are planning to roll out curbside pickup in the next few weeks. Our first focus is on getting manufacturing back up and running and then we'll move our focus onto how to create a safe and wonderful experience for our customers." [The new city order allows for manufacturers and warehouses of retail goods to open and operate with less than 50 people onsite at any time.]
Have you been preparing for reopening?
"Yes, we have been preparing for our reopening for a week, using city and state recommendations as a template for creating a safe and productive work environment for our staff."
What kinds of things do you have to do to meet the guidelines?
"We are changing the layout of our workshop and communal work spaces, and we will train our employees on behavioral changes to meet CDC and state requirements."
Are your employees ready and willing to get back to work?
"Yes, our team is excited to come back to work. We are being transparent with them about all the changes—both physical and behavioral—that we will be putting into place, so they know that their safety is our number one priority.
Generally, how has your business been doing since the first Stay Home order?
"Being closed down for two months has been very challenging for every manufacturing business in this city. We have an amazing community of customers who have been very supportive and patient with us. In the next few months we will be working our butts off to fulfill our promises to our customers and deliver the clogs they love."
Has there been any point during the pandemic where you thought you may have to permanently shutter your brick-and-mortar?
"Of course as the pandemic happened, I experienced fears of how bad things might get. But it's important to stick to the facts, to make decisions from a place of strength and to not let worry cripple you. At times like this, it's so important to be fueled by hope and love, and make smart decisions from that place."
How has local support been from customers and fellow store owners?
"It has been a time of amazing solidarity—both with our customers and with fellow store owners. Our customers have rallied behind us, and been very patient with their individual orders. For a small business, EVERY order counts, and when a customer decides individually that it's not a big deal for her to wait, it's a BIG DEAL to the small business she is supporting. Above all, we need our customers' patience as we get back up on our feet."
What are your hopes for your business as we move forward?
"I think the most important thing for small business owners (and all of us) is to be open and flexible as things evolve. The new reality hasn't quite 'landed' yet, and we don't yet know what things will look like on the other side. So for now, Bryr is staying flexible and responsive."
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