As early as this week, many businesses may finally be able to reopen their doors on a limited scale under COVID-19 safety restrictions if Skagit County is approved for Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.
Skagit County commissioners voted Friday to apply to the state to move the county to Phase 2.
Some businesses plan to stick with long-term adaptations, while others say reopening may bring a return to some kind of normal.
La Conner’s Seaport Books is best experienced in person, said owner Janna Gage.
“In the olden days, people would come in the store, say ‘this is a nice place,’ look around, and buy four books and leave. That was so easy,” she said. “(Reopening) would make doing business possible.”
She said online and phone orders take “75% more work for 75% fewer sales,” quoting another area bookstore owner.
Gage wondered how much discretionary income people will have when stores reopen. But she said her shop offers something online vendors and larger stores do not.
“I want (customers) to find Pacific Northwest books, those written by Pacific Northwest authors, books they haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen for a long time,” she said.
In Concrete, Athena Hornsby feared her gift shop, Northwest Garden Bling, would never recover from the two-month shutdown of nonessential businesses. She said losing sales on Mother’s Day — the store’s second biggest day of the year — was a huge blow.
“I kind of feel the governor has cut the throats of small businesses and made people either shop online or shop at big-box stores,” she said. “I’m not happy.”
Hornsby said it’s unfair that large chain stores could sell nonessential items while small retailers selling the same products had to close.
“When we’re finally open, please come in and spend money,” she said. “Spend it here, and don’t buy it online. I hope (the shutdown) hasn’t conditioned people to buy online. I understand people are scared. I’m scared, too.”
For restaurants, reopening dining rooms at 50% capacity is complicated.
The Fairhaven in Burlington has never had dine-in customers. The restaurant opened in mid-March, just days after the statewide shutdown of restaurants. It has stayed busy with takeout orders, said co-owner Jennifer Shapanus.
She said the restaurant is on the fence about opening its dining room in Phase 2.
“Making that transition to putting things on plates, the logistics of it all, we’re going to have to work our way into that,” she said.
Shapanus said she worries about a second shutdown in the future.
“We’re doing alright (with takeout) and shouldn’t do too much until we know more,” she said.
Calico Cupboard restaurants have been closed entirely for two months, but plans are to gradually reopen the three restaurants for takeout and sit-down dining four days a week, said general manager Brenda Schmidt. The Mount Vernon location will open first, followed by restaurants in Anacortes and La Conner.
She said it won’t be a flip of a switch.
The business needs time to train staff on new safety protocols and schedule food deliveries, which have been restricted during the pandemic, Schmidt said. Another challenge will be figuring out social distancing in the restaurant’s kitchen.
“I think we will be lucky to break even,” she said. “But we feel we’ve been closed for quite a few months and want to support our community.”
For some businesses, reopening comes at too great a risk.
Shelley Milka, owner of Riverwalk Yoga Studio in Mount Vernon, said teaching virtual yoga classes has been an adjustment, but has gone well. She has been able to offer nearly all classes virtually.
While small group fitness classes (with five or fewer students) can resume in Phase 2, Milka said she doesn’t want to risk the health of her clients, most of whom are over 60.
“I put out my newsletter (last week) saying the likelihood of being open at all this summer is very dim,” she said. “I’ll think about maybe looking at it again in the fall.”