As stay-at-home order begins to lift, local businesses adjust
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Though local business owners are happy to turn on the “open” signs, some are still unsure about the future of their businesses and how long it will take to get back to pre-pandemic sales.
Stitchin’ Post Gifts, located at 104 S. Main St., closed on March 30 and unlocked its doors for business on May 9 following Gov. Roy Cooper’s easing of some restrictions in his first phase of reopening. Owner Pam Coffield said the shop has been busy and that “people are back shopping almost like nothing ever happened.”
Staff at the shop don’t require customers to wear a mask when they visit, but it’s been strongly encouraged. Some of the customers wear masks and most are cautious with social distancing measures, she said,. Customers have been compliant with using hand sanitizer when they enter the store.
Additionally, employees wear masks and the store has put into place sneeze guards at the cash registers and jewelry counters as those are the locations where employees come into the closest contact with customers.
“The customers feel safe shopping with us because of how cautious we’ve been,” Coffield said.
She added that the store reopened while operating on a limited staff because some weren’t quite ready to make their return. After a week’s time, staff feel more comfortable returning to work more regularly. And though Coffield usually makes the schedule up to two months in advance, she’s been having to schedule people and plan day-by-day in order to accommodate everyone.
But the temporary closure allowed for the staff to transition to a new service the store now offers. While closed, about three to four employees learned how to utilize Facebook Live for sales. Coffield said this opportunity arose after seeing the “need to jump on a new way of selling without having to use a storefront.”
“Now that we’re open, it’s almost like I got to have two staffs,” she said, adding that a few staff members dedicate their time working at the store and the rest handle Facebook Live sales, which can take place several times each week.
Additionally, Stitchin’ Post’s vendors held video chats with the staff to teach them marketing skills and how to emphasize their use of social media.
The Smoke Pit, located at 117 E. Innes St., is another business that has reopened its services to the community. It began loading the pits again for its barbecue in Salisbury on April 24. And despite the closure, the catering services stayed busy with personal events and boxed lunches. Now, the restaurant offers curbside pick-up and to-go orders, as well as delivery from apps like ChowNow and Doordash.
The business has been better than catering manager Justin Slides expected, he said. Though it’s not quite the same as it once was, the weekends have been busy.
“The people here in Salisbury have always been really good to us,” Slides said.
He added that once all employees returned to work, the transition was smooth despite the first few days being a little rough.
“We thought it felt good to get back to work” after being closed for eight weeks, Slides said.
Once Gov. Cooper allows the state to transition into Phase Two of his reopening plan, Smoke Pit plans to reopen its dining area while operating at a lower capacity. Slides said the restaurant is just awaiting guidance for that to happen.
As for recovery, Slides is uncertain of the future as “the virus unfolds.” Though he expects dents, the store has done well at “putting things in place to keep afloat,” he said.
In addition to Stitchin’ Post, the closure provided Smoke Pit with a new opportunity. Slides said the closure helped workers focus even more than they already were on food quality.
Rohan Banton, owner of The Candy Shoppe on Main, located at 102 S. Main St. in China Grove, said that because the business took a several-thousand-dollar hit in April, he’s unsure about how long it will take to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business.
“That’s hard to say because we don’t know what the ‘new normal’ is going to be,” Banton said.
The Candy Shoppe closed on April 24 and reopened on May 8. And though the China Grove community “has embraced us,” the business sales “have been OK” and aren’t yet what they were before COVID-19.
Some of the shop’s suppliers aren’t fully reopened yet, either, which results in a lack of some items customers enjoy. The lack of some treats is due to a limited supply of chocolate, as the store’s supplier is operating on limited days and hours, which also results in a two-day delay in chocolate reaching the store.
The fan-favorite treat of Cheerwine Fudge is among the sweets that China Grove residents have mentioned missing on Facebook, Banton said. Fortunately, the fudge comes from a different supplier, who continues to make Cheerwine Fudge for the store.
Banton said the community has to continued meet the changed circumstances with patience because some people are still hesitating to come out and spend money. But he said that “now is the time for the community to spend” to keep local businesses open now that they’re beginning to reopen.
And though Coffield is optimistic, she acknowledges that the first week’s success in reopening could be out of character or provide “a false sense of security.” She’s uncertain of what to expect, but said the success of reopening will depend on the public’s compliance to health and safety guidelines as well as whether positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise or decline.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.
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