Stores ‘cautiously optimistic’ about reopening today

Rob and Danielle Eldridge have been preparing for their vintage toy store in downtown Xenia to reopen since it closed two months ago due to the coronavirus.

Retail stores in Ohio can reopen today, including Eldridge’s Route 68 Vintage Toys and Collectibles, area malls and other small businesses. These businesses make up about 90% of the Ohio economy, according to Gov. Mike DeWine.

All employees must follow social distancing practices, wear masks and follow guidelines outlined by Ohio Department of Health Dr. Amy Acton’s order.

Rob Eldridge said because his store is so small, only seven people will be allowed in the store at a time. They won’t be requiring customers to wear a face mask, but it will be “highly recommended.”

>>PHOTOS: Stores get ready to open

“We prided ourselves in a clean store before this, so we’ll be keeping the store very clean now,” Eldridge said. “We want our customers to feel safe. Their safety is our safety.”

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Eldridge said his small business’s online presence has increased from selling “just a few things on eBay to a couple hundred things on eBay.” His small business and others have taken the biggest hit during these forced closures, Eldridge said.

“I would like to see everybody come together and support small businesses,” he said. “Our customers have been so supportive. They’re usually in here buying superhero toys, but they’re superheros to us because they help keep us open.”

Eldridge said one of his regular customers has even been searching for hand sanitizer so that the small business doesn’t run out of it.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, nearly one million small businesses in Ohio account for about 99.6% of all employers in the state— employing almost half of the entire state’s workforce.

Chris Roderer, general manager of Roderer Shoe Center at the Town and Country shopping center, said he is taking every opportunity in his personal life to support other small businesses.

Roderer Shoe Center will reopen on Tuesday with slightly reduced hours, less furniture and options for less person-to-person contact in the store. Roderer said the store has ample amounts of hand sanitizer and now has UBC lights to sanitize shoes if someone tries them on. The store also has the ability to do a contact-less foot measuring, Roderer said.

Employees will be wearing masks, but it is up to customers to decide if they want to wear a mask inside the store. Roderer said they will also be taking their employees’ temperatures.

“We are taking every possible precaution to make it as safe and comfortable as possible for everyone,” Roderer said. “There’s a lot of excitement to have a bit of a return to normalcy.”

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In Oakwood, Get Dressed Boutique is opening by appointment only, said owner Tracey Schuman.

After the first two days, there will be walk-in hours and the number of customers allowed in the store will be limited to two.

“We are requesting customers wear masks and employees will be required to wear a mask,” Schuman said.

Schuman said the boutique’s customers have been supportive while the store has been shutdown.

“We’ve kept in touch with our customers,” Schuman said. “We are looking forward to opening again and getting our lives back to normal as much as we can.”

Local Once Upon A Child, Platos and Clothes Mentor stores will also reopen on Tuesday.

Sarah Samuel, director of marketing for the parent company of those stores, R&R Resale, said the company is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re trying to make this as safe as possible,” Samuel said.

Stores will be taking their employees’ temperatures before their shift starts and all employees will be required to wear a mask.

“Customers should be prepared for some changes in the store,” Samuel said. “They’re going to see a lot more signs than normal, some plexi-glass barriers at the cash register and some dressing rooms closed.”

Samuel said the company is excited to give customers the option to sell their clothes and other items for cash again. To sell items, customers will have to make an appointment and make sure everything they’re trying to sell is freshly laundered.

“As the retail sector reopens fully in Ohio, they are dedicated to putting people back to work responsibly, realizing they need to do so in a safe manner. These small business owners understand for their relaunch to be a success, they need to follow the five protocols laid out by the Ohio Department of Health. Their first and foremost responsibility remains the safety of their employees and customers, as without either of those it is impossible to operate,” said Roger Geiger, executive director for NFIB in Ohio.

Employees of small businesses are like an extended part of the owner’s family, Geiger said. Small business owners know the names of their employees and the members of their employees’ families. Their employees live in the local community, and entrepreneurs give back to those same communities, sponsoring the little league teams, events, and charities.

“The idea of shopping small needs to resonate with everyone across our state. Small businesses have been there for their communities and, now, like never before, they are counting on Ohioans to come back and shop at their favorite neighborhood businesses,” Geiger said.

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Von Maur at The Greene will open with reduced hours.

The clothing store will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Von Maur will screen employees to make sure they are healthy and practice social distancing. The store will also have a curbside service option for those who don’t want to go inside the store.

“We are cautiously taking our first steps toward resuming business. Our priority remains the health and well-being of our employees, customers, and the communities that we serve,” said Melody Wright, Chief Operating Officer. “Von Maur is committed to providing a safe environment for those that visit our stores when they open.”

Big box store Kohl’s will not be reopening its Ohio locations for in-store shopping today. A spokesperson said there is no further news on when the stores could open for in-store shopping.

On Friday, barbers, nail and hair salons, day spas and tanning facilities will reopen and restaurants will be allowed to host outdoor dining. Magazines and other non-essential items that cannot be disinfected will not be permitted in the building. Restaurants should not host parties larger than 10 people and parties must be seated six feet apart from each other. Salad bars and self-serve options are only permitted if served by staff. Ohio restaurants can start reopening indoor dining on Thursday, May 21.

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