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Retail reopens: Sales slow at local stores for first day back open

Graham’s Boots, Work & Western Wear had been open for most of the month of May, but Tony and Tammie Watson of Stanton, didn’t know that when they went shopping there Wednesday, the first day the governor allowed nonessential retailers to reopen at reduced capacity.

“I needed a pair of shoes, and I waited until they could open,” Tony Watson said.

Laura Graham, co-owner and manager of the clothing store, said the store opened its doors May 3 with the Clark County Health Department’s permission. They were allowed to do so because one of the items they sell is safety shoes for workers, and that makes them an essential business. But many of their customers, she said, assumed they were closed until May 20.

“We’ve had several phone calls asking if we were open,” she said Wednesday.

Graham said the store has been operating under rules established for essential businesses, which included putting up Plexiglas barriers for cashiers, requiring all employees wear masks and limiting the number of customers allowed inside.

“If we get more than 10 in, we lock the doors,” she said. “It’s for everybody’s safety.”

A sign on the door also asks that customers wear masks if they come inside. The Watsons were wearing theirs.

At Shoe Dept. Encore in the Winchester Plaza that same afternoon, almost no one was wearing a mask except for employees.

At Hibbett Sports in the Kroger Plaza, manager Penny Preston said the first day back had not been busy.

“It has been a bit slower than I thought,” she said. “We have had a few people just looking to get out of the house and see if we had anything new in … but it’s starting to pick up as the day goes on.”

She said the store had at first tried curbside pickup when nonessential retailers were ordered to close their doors in mid-March, but that had ended.

Preston said she was trying to keep her staff and customers safe.

“The masks are required for employees, and we have hand sanitizer everywhere,” she said.

Some customers weren’t wearing masks.

“We’ve had some come in, and when they ask if they have to wear them and we say no, they’re stripped off and placed in a pocket,” she said.

Preston said that doesn’t bother her, but she would rather everyone wear a mask. 

“I wouldn’t say it makes me feel uncomfortable, but my personal preference would be for everybody to wear them,” she said. “But I don’t make that decision. I wear my mask.”

Many stores chose not to reopen as soon as they were allowed.

Gordman’s, an anchor store in the Winchester Plaza that had opened several stores including the one in Winchester not long before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered them, remained closed Wednesday.

Mason, an antique and specialty store on Main Street, also remained closed, and won’t reopen until June 1, but owner Mason Rhodus said they have been doing a thriving business making masks and selling them to customers by credit card over the phone and letting them pick them up without coming inside the store.

“I’m glad we decided to do that, because it’s what’s saved our small business,” Rhodus said.

He said they didn’t want to reopen the inside of the store “because we wanted to see how it went” first for other stores.

Katie Ledford, owner of Sugar Belles, a downtown clothing and accessories store for women, said she had a slow first day as well.

“We had about four people the whole day,” she said.

Some people may not have known her store was open.

“I think one of the reasons for that is that some of the retail shops aren’t open yet, which I respect,” she said. “Each store has their own things they want to do” before reopening, she said, but she said that if all of them had reopened the same day, she thinks they would have been busier.

Some may also be a little apprehensive, she said. Going shopping is “not something that’s at the forefront of people’s minds” right now, and they would rather stay at home until they feel comfortable with it.

“I do think it’s going to take some time to get back out,” she said.

Ledford said the spring is usually a busy time for her store because of Easter and graduations, but this year, nobody was buying dresses. Like Rhodus, though, she found that one thing she could sell plenty of was masks. So she got a sewing machine out of her closet and learned to make them. She has sold them online and allowed people to pick them up, and for every one she sells, she donates another to a health care business, such as the birthing and radiation centers at the University of Kentucky.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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