Some retail stores open after being closed due to coronavirus pandemic

Retail reopens, Day 1: What did shopping look like in Butler and Warren counties?

Ohio retail stores reopened Tuesday with some changes, and many reported typical weekday business but not yet the pent-up demand that some may have expected.

Inside The Foundry, Liberty Center’s indoor mall, Silver Mountain Jewelry owner Amy Kerr tended to new and returning customers and said she was “pleasantly surprised” by what business the shop received.

“We’ve had lots of regulars come in to support us, and it’s been really great,” Kerr said. “You definitely get the sense of people just looking for something to buy, not necessarily that they’re coming in because they need it.”

To adhere to state guidelines, Kerr said she thoroughly cleaned all surfaces before opening Tuesday, wore a mask, stepped back to allow customers to peruse various items and cleaned between each customer.

Liberty Center allowed Kerr to tape off spaces on the floor to mark off social distance space between customers.

Kerr, who has worked for the company for more than 20 years, acquired it in 2016. She brought back Silver Mountain Jewelry’s 15 employees and reopened locations at Liberty Center, Kenwood Towne Center, Tri-County Mall in the Cincinnati area and Easton Town Center in Columbus.

“Even though the malls are open, there still are not a lot of stores that are open,” she said. “People, what I’ve noticed, they’re arriving today at the malls and they’re expecting more to be open and they’re like ‘Well, where can I shop?’”

She said more retail is open now than in the week before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine instructed all non-essential retail to close, especially big-name retailers, but “not as much as people would expect.”

“We’re hearing that some are waiting until Friday (or) until next week,” she said. “I’m not really sure if people are worrying about payroll, too. Does it make sense to open?”

The reopening of restaurants — outdoor service on Friday and indoor dining May 21 — is expected to help retailers draw even more business, Kerr said.

Sterling Seraph owner and artisan Dawn Singleton said lost revenues and an inability to entice employees back to work means she isn’t reopening a Mason location she opened in 2018, but is instead pouring all her efforts into the location she opened in 2016 at Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield Twp.

Business there, she said, is now “a different kind of normal,” one that found her redesigning the store to resemble the aspects that customers appreciated most about the Mason location.

The Fairfield Twp. store has changed its hours to 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, reserving Sunday and Monday soley for appointment-only hours for those who are immunocomprised.

Customers at the store on Tuesday found a layout that placed more stress on the wellness aspect of the store, such an apothecary of herbs, teas, essential oils and natural organic cleaning products, and less emphasis on jewelry and crystals.

Business was typical for a Tuesday, which usually is the slowest day in the week for the store, she said.

Social distancing cues are in place inside the store, where masks are recommended but not required, Singleton said. After a customer swipes his or her credit card, she offers to sign a smiley face on their receipts.

“This way, they’re touching their credit card and they’re not touching our system and everybody’s keeping their things to themselves,” she said.

While not all stores at area lifestyle shopping centers chose to open, officials at each said they’re working to ensure Tuesday’s return to retail was a safe one. Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe installed queuing protocols and floor markings to manage traffic in common areas.

“We have established a comprehensive set of protocols designed to protect our employees, tenants and shoppers as we reopen,” said general manager Mary Ann Mattsheck.

Those protocols also included installing directional signage to encourage better traffic flow. All high-interaction areas, such as play areas, strollers and drinking fountains, are temporarily closed. In restrooms, every other sink and urinal is taped off to encourage the proper spacing between individuals.

Fourteen out of 100 retailers were listed as open Tuesday on the outlet mall’s website.

“The first step was reopening the property,” Mattsheck said. “Tenants will be reopening as quickly and safely as possible. We expect tenant openings to accelerate now that we’re reopened.”

Liberty Center is implementing numerous steps to ensure safety, including requiring its property management team and vendors to wear masks and gloves at all times, according to general manager John Taylor.

In addition, high touch-point common area locations will be sanitized frequently and common areas and seating may be limited across the property to avoid crowding.

Guests are reminded to maintain a safe, social distance and to not gather in groups larger than 10 people. All employees and guests are encouraged to wash their hands often and consider wearing a mask while in common areas, public spaces or in the presence of others.

Employees and guests also are asked to stay home if they have a fever or exhibit other signs of illness. Security personnel will be constantly monitoring the property to ensure the safety of Liberty Center’s guests and employees, he said. 

“The health and safety of our guests, employees, tenants and the community is our top priority,” Taylor said.

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