Back in business
After weeks of empty parking lots, area stores are eager to open up
For many area businesses, it’s opening day, but they will be pitching merchandise, not baseballs.
Blair, Bedford and Cambria counties entered the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-step plan, allowing more retailers to reopen following the March shutdown to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Centre and Clearfield counties moved to yellow a week ago.
Under the yellow phase, businesses are permitted to conduct in-person operations, so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements for businesses permitted to operate during the COVID-19 disaster emergency to ensure the safety and health of employees and the public.
Most previously designated nonlife-sustaining businesses can reopen. Any business that does open must follow strict guidelines, including but not limited to, face coverings for entry and the ability to practice social distancing.
The Blair County Chamber of Commerce has been publishing a daily informational message called “What’s it mean to be yellow?'”
“The message will focus not only on procedures but will also update businesses on additional opportunities for grants and loans,” Chamber President/CEO Joe Hurd said. “We recognize what a difficult time this is for businesses. Many are already in survival mode. While we don’t advocate for businesses to operate outside the realm of the governor’s mandate, we do understand the frustration that has moved us to this point. The health of our citizens is important. The health of our businesses and our economy is also important.”
Jewelry stores will be among those opening their doors today.
“I am planning to reopen with a soft customer opening,” said President Don Beerbower of Beerbower Jewelers, Hollidaysburg. “I am willing to work with people. This will make my life easier and give customers some comfort. We are concerned about your safety as well. Hopefully customers will want to come and see me.”
Beerbower admits that challenges lie ahead.
“There is some pent-up demand, but other people will struggle. I am optimistic there will be business,” he said. “I caution it may be a long-time recovery for a lot of businesses.”
Kranich’s Jewelers reopened its State College store last Friday and will reopen in Altoona and Johnstown today.
“We are excited to reopen. We have been in touch with many customers during the closure and believe we are in a better position than most retailers to provide a very safe and healthy shopping environment,” President Charles Kranich said.
Kranich said lots of work has been done to prepare for reopening.
“We are engaging in significant staff training that will allow us to far exceed the suggestions of the CDC for cleanliness and social distancing for staff and customers,” he said. “We have also purchased much in the way of supplies and equipment to make certain we are able to maintain an extremely high standards for a safe retail environment. Shoppers and staff will be required to wear masks. If a shopper does not have one, we will be able to provide one prior to coming into the store.”
Dorman’s Jewelry, Altoona will reopen today with a lot of changes at the store, according to its website, and Unkel Joe’s Woodshed in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center also will reopen today.
“It has been way too long, and it has been so strange how everything worked,” Unkel Joe’s General Manager Tim Baker said. “We are used to working all of the time. All of our employees are coming back. The shutdown gave us a chance to update our business practices, something we had to do to become modernized. The problem is it hit during trout season. There is no way we can make up that loss. We will follow all of the guidelines to do things the right way.”
Baker said, “We will have a one-hour time period from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday for senior citizens and people at high risk.”
Capacity will be limited to 100 people, including employees, and shoppers are asked to wear masks.
Fiore Furniture, Altoona, will open its doors at 10 a.m. today with incentives, including reduced prices and no interest for 36 months, President Robert Fiore said in an advertisement in Thursday’s Mirror.
Fiore’s has put into place sanitizing and operating procedures to ensure customers’ visits are safe and comfortable.
Sales associates will wear masks, and any employee who is ill will be required to stay at home, Fiore said.
It’s also back to business today for Cheryl’s Critter Cuts, Hollidaysburg, a full-service pet grooming salon.
“We are excited and anxious to get back to work taking care of all of our furry friends. When the closures were first announced, two weeks seemed like a long time, but we understood. We never dreamed two weeks would turn into two months,” said owner/manager Amy Lantz.
The business has been taking steps to reopen safely.
“Everyone is taking an online course for groomers regarding grooming and COVID-19,” Lantz said. “We are going to open with our regular hours with one exception. We will be implementing a specific time of day for toenail only appointments in an attempt to limit the number of people in our shop.”
Susan’s Dog Grooming Salon, Altoona, will reopen today, but will not be taking on any new clients, according to a recording on the business’ answering machine.
Boscov’s in Logan Town Center will reopen at
11 a.m. Saturday. All customers and employees must wear masks and practice social distancing while in the store. Before reopening, stores have been deep cleaned.
“We’ve intensified cleaning high volume areas such as bathrooms, railings, doors and shopping carts. Registers will be disinfected after each translation. Hand sanitizers are available throughout the store. We’ve implemented traffic patterns to make your entrance and exit from our stores safe. We have installed plexiglass shields at each register,” chairman/CEO Jim Boscov said in an advertisement in Thursday’s Mirror.
The Logan Valley Mall, with its anchors Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co., will not be reopening at this time.
“The governor has asked that enclosed malls remain closed, and we will be able to reopen during the green phase. … We will be sure to keep the community posted on a potential date for the full reopening, and in the meantime, we are in the process of developing a plan that will allow the mall to one day open under new cleaning protocols and social distancing guidelines,” said mall General Manager Dan May.
Mall staff has been working closely with ownership, Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group, to ensure that the proper procedures and protocols are in place and enforced on the property to safely reopen.
“We performed a deep cleaning and sanitizing after closing the mall, and will conduct another round of cleaning prior to reopening. Our housekeeping personnel will constantly clean all high traffic areas, making sure that these areas are disinfected on a frequent basis to meet or exceed CDC guidelines,” May said.
Mall hours will be determined once the go-ahead to reopen is given.
Hurd said he is excited to see local businesses reopen, but the chamber office will remain closed.
“We have persevered,” he said. “We still have some industry sectors that haven’t been given the go-ahead to reopen, and we need to continue to advocate on their behalf. The ability of our business community to get sufficiently back on its feet will almost certainly parallel our county’s ability to return to some semblance of normal.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.