Weeks later, Butler County businesses still adjusting to new normal in reopening

Butler County business owners and their employees are working to adjust to the challenges of coronavirus rules and are taking extra measures to do so.

At Fleurish Home in Hamilton, employees do more than wear masks, wipe down counters and credit card machines and make hand sanitizer available for customers. Rather than eliminating the fitting room or prohibiting returns to combat germs and bacteria like many other businesses, the shop also steams garments and uses an ultraviolet light for approximately 15 seconds to sanitize products customers have touched.

"If someone's been handling stuffed animals or something like that, I can go over and hit it with the UV light … so I know that it's been sanitized," said owner Debra Campbell, who first started using the technology to clean objects in a hotel room while traveling.

“I always run my UV light over all of that. I figure if it’s good for that, it’s good for the store.”

Because nearby restaurants have seen reduced business and community events have been either delayed or canceled, the store isn’t seeing anywhere near its normal foot traffic, Campbell said.

MORE: New Mexican restaurant coming to Bridgewater Falls as second area location

The biggest challenge Fleurish Home has faced is communicating to the public that the store is there for them “in whatever way they want,” she said, including the store’s website, phone orders, a new text-to-order hotline, online meeting apps or personal shopping appointments before or after hours with additional safety guidelines in place.

“We know that everyone has a different comfort level and we’re just trying to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for everyone,” she said.

Ruby’s Chocolates in Fairfield Twp. continues to make turtles, buckeyes, truffle cakes and chocolate-covered pretzel “joysticks” in its 1,500-square-foot kitchen, but the shop’s walk-in area remains closed, owner Melinda Mueller said.

Doing so provides peace of mind for her older, part-time employees, she said.

“They were scared even to come to work,” she said. “I know I lose money doing that, but I care more about my employees.”

Customers who want to purchase Ruby’s Chocolates can shop online, at Jungle Jim’s International Market or at Ruby’s Chocolate’s Oakley location, which opened in January.

MORE: New restaurant specializing in sandwiches opening next month in Fairfield

Although that location is permitting walk-in business, Mueller said it will take a return to normalcy, including the end of mask-wearing, to fully reopen the Fairfield Twp. location, which she launched in 2009.

The Spicy Olive never shut down during the pandemic, offering online ordering for a time. Owner Melanie Cedargren said reopening May 12 was “scary” because she didn’t know how customers were going to react.

The West Chester Twp. olive oil and vinegar business didn’t initially start booming as many customers preferred to continue with curbside pick up, but within the past two weeks, “it’s feeling more normal.”

Customers may still taste the shop’s gourmet items before purchase, but not using a dispenser. Instead, it’s making those products available upon request, with employees using gloves.

“I’ve noticed I’m doing that more and more,” Cedargren said. “People just are kind of acting more like they used to.”

The shop continues to require employees to wear masks, but fewer customers wear them, even as it makes them available for public use.

Being open to foot traffic also has meant making a series of changes, including taking employees’ temperatures every day, requiring them to frequently wash their hands and use gloves where possible.

MORE: J.C. Penney closing 154 stores, including one in southwest Ohio

The store also limits foot traffic to no more than five people at a time and asks that customers social distance and consistently sanitizes credit card machines and pens with disinfecting wipes, especially after transactions.

“It’s just kind of something we’ve gotten used to by now,” Cedargren said.

The Spicy Olive also has allowed older customers and customers with health concerns to schedule appointment times in the mornings after opening to allow them to shop without other customers being present and continues to offer curbside pick up on Fridays and Saturdays, plus home delivery and mail orders.

About the Author