Retail shops return to Ohio today, and business owners across Butler County say they’re gearing up for the first day back and beyond with new procedures to keep customers and employees as safe as possible.
Miller St. Boutique owners Stephanie Gonya and Tara Smithson said they have spent the past several weeks redesigning the entire 2,700-square-foot Fairfield storefront to ensure there is plenty of space for customers to shop without having to walk side by side.
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how we’ve set this up to be very different,” Gonya said. “You feel it as soon as you walk in, that there’s just more room to move.”
Miller St. brought in its four employees for the past week to help thoroughly sanitize the business. On Monday, employees marked off six-foot distances on the floor to show where customers could wait in line while following social distance guidelines.
Gonya said all customers will receive a squirt of hand sanitizer as they enter the store. They’ll also find masks available for purchase for $7 in case they either do not own one or forgot theirs at home.
Shipping and in-store pickup will continue to be an option. Business hours will be reduced, temporarily, to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointment times will be available for those who do not feel they are able to wear a mask.
Gonya and Smithson said they’re relieved the business opened an online sales site last year.
“I don’t know how we would have survived without the online store,” Gonya said. “We have some incredibly faithful local customers, as well as (a customer base) building up across the country.”
Lynn Becker, owner of Jay’s Furniture Direct at 1101 High St. in Hamilton, said the 55-year-old business has posted a large sign at its entrance informing customers that six-foot distancing is required for all employees and customers.
Clean, new masks will be provided to those who do not have one, Becker said.
The 11,000-square-foot store affixed symbols to the floor indicating six-foot distances for customers waiting in line and trained employees on the proper way to sterilize the checkout area between customers. The store’s layout has been changed to ensure sales staff at checkout counters are more than six feet away from one another and implemented a new way of checking out.
“When a customer has to come up to sign, then our salesperson steps back the six feet while they sign,” she said. “Then they go back to their spot as our (employee) goes back up to finish the contract.”
Sales staff have been instructed to guide customers to the opposite side of the store and away from other customers to minimize the possibility of being too close to another.
Jay’s Furniture Direct also stocked up on inexpensive pens to allow customers to sign a receipt and take the pen with them to prevent other customers from using the same pen.
“We’re doing everything we can think of to be safe,” Becker said.
Chris Lester of Lester’s Rock N Roll Shop at 1959 Central Ave. in Middletown, sells everything from guitars, amplifiers and drums to rock T-Shirts and vinyl records. He said his Monday consisted mainly of marking off six-foot distances on the floor with vinyl records and making sure the entire business is sanitized.
“I’ve just been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning,” he said.
Lester said he has purposely held back special order records to ensure “the best record selection” for the first day back.
The store initially will adjust its hours to 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will, at least for the time being, remain closed on Monday “just to see how that works.”
Curbside service, which was introduced during Ohio’s shutdown of retail, will remain.
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