Practices vary as businesses in Wisconsin reopen
May 20, 2020
By Mary Hookham
Last week, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order was overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Evers is now allowing non-essential businesses to open gradually by providing a capacity limit guideline for the number of customers allowed into a store at one time. Businesses both large and small are starting to reopen, and safety practices differ everywhere as people continue to grapple with the covid 19 outbreak.
“At this time, we are still not allowing anyone to come into our business,” said Tony Hook, who owns Hook’s Cheese Company, Inc. in Mineral Point, Wisconsin with his wife, Julie Hook.
Hook said his company is still offering curbside pickup and will continue to do so for at least the next few weeks in order to promote employee and customer safety. But this choice is affecting his bottom line.
“We only sell about two percent of our products out of our salesroom,” Hook said. “Most of it goes to distributors that sell to stores and restaurants. This is where the big loss is. We need to get restaurants back up and going, but it needs to be done safely.”
Safety is also the primary concern for Janesville small business owner Kari Reents. She’s being cautious as she reopens her business, Velvet & Tulle, a fashion-forward women’s boutique.
“We took our time reopening because we didn’t want to irresponsibly swing our doors open and not have the proper protocol in place,” Reents said. “We are open by appointment only right now.”
Later this week, Velvet & Tulle will open to the public using the guideline of five customers inside at one time. The company will also operate using reduced hours and is not allowing children under the age of 16 to enter. Reents said it’s hard to tell at this point how these guidelines will affect her bottom line but she continues to put people ahead of profit.
“The safety of people is way more important than any sales,” she said. “My customers and employees are my number-one priority. Perhaps I’m being overly cautious but that’s better than not being cautious enough.”
Janesville independent bookstore owner Rene Purnell said although many customers still don’t know that her business, Book World, has reopened, plenty of her regular customers are coming in again. She asks all her customers to wear masks inside the store and is implementing the capacity limit.
“So far I don’t see a problem with the limit,” Purnell said. “As more people come back in, I’ll be watching the door and kindly asking customers to remain in their cars until it’s safe to go inside the store.”
It can be challenging for people to do curbside pickup at any store, she said. Although it wasn’t a big issue for her customers while she was closed, she understands some people hesitate to provide their credit card information over the phone, which can ultimately adversely affect a company’s profits.
“Now that we’re back open, the credit card companies are fine not having our customers sign their receipts,” she said. “This promotes a cleaner, safer environment for our customers and employees.”
Safety remains a priority for many business owners and consumers as retail shops reopen. Reents also believes there will continue to be a more remote sales atmosphere going forward.
“A life is more important than anything else,” she said.