Reopening during a pandemic meant making changes.
“We are glad to be reopened, and are doing our best to stay on top of keeping the store clean and minimizing risk,” said Matthew Williams of Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown. “We know that the process of getting the pandemic under control can't be rushed. The far worse scenario, in our minds, is one where everyone throws caution to the wind and we end up having another shut-down period.
“The fear for retailers of course is being closed this winter during the normally busy holiday season. If being careful now means less risk of that happening we are willing and able to take measures for as long as required.”
Firefly is following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the American Bookseller Association.
“We have reworked the floor layout so that there are fewer tight spaces to avoid crowding,” said Williams. “Since we can't sanitize the cloth covered chairs every night, we have taken them out and replaced them with benches.”
Sanitizing stations were installed at both entrances and in the bathroom. Surface sanitizing is conducted throughout the store and the doorways each night. The front desk is cleaned multiple times a day. Wearing masks in the store is also required.
“Our customers are always enthusiastic about being in our store, but have recently been even more appreciative now that we have reopened,” he said. “According to many recent customers, they really missed being able to shop for books. The customers in the store have been fine with the changes and have been supportive of our efforts to keep them and ourselves safe.”
Firefly continues, even after opening, to offer free shipping to Berks County addresses and curbside pickup. Customers continue to use the online site to purchase books, puzzles and games.
Jeromy Curry, owner of the K'Town Pub Taphouse & BBQ said they have been following the guidance of the governor’s office, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the CDC for cleaning, sanitizing, social distancing and masks. All surfaces are cleaned and sanitized between customers.
“We have limited our indoor seating to 50% capacity, which for us is 50 seats. All of our tables and chairs are at least 6 feet apart, and we purchased plexiglass dividers for the bar top which allows us to sit more people at the bar without having to space the stools 6 feet apart between groups," he said. “We also roped off the bar area to discourage people not sitting at the bar from walking up and ordering. With those limitations we currently have seating for 50 indoors and 22 outdoors on our patio and sidewalk.”
The pub previously offered table service only until 9 p.m. when customers would have to go to the bar to order. Table service now is from open to close to encourage people to remain in their seats.
“We also now use a pay at the table device which allows us to process credit cards table side, thereby reducing the amount of contact we have with a customer’s credit card,” he said. “We are providing disposable masks for customers who do not have one.”
The Pub also offers takeout food, beer and cocktails for those not comfortable yet with eating indoors.
“Overall, customer reactions have been overwhelmingly positive,” Curry said. “They appreciate the steps we are taking to keep them and our staff safe. We have had no incidents in regards to wearing a mask or following all of these new and strange rules.
“I would say the most important thing we’ve had to do so far is educate people in regards to masks, limited seating, etc. There seems to be a belief among some people that ‘green’ meant go right back to normal when it is anything but normal.”
In Hamburg, the story is similar.
“Local businesses and restaurants are following the guidelines issued by CDC, making adjustments to their cleaning procedures, asking consumers to wear masks when entering their business, and having hand sanitizer available for their patrons to use,” said Deena Kershner, executive director of the Our Town Foundation.
OTF, Hamburg’s nonprofit community revitalization organization, closed the Hamburg Strand Theater as well as the Art & Craft Gallery during the shutdown. The theater is a source of income for the nonprofit and the gallery closure meant no artwork sales and no commissions.
Also, OTF canceled the Art of the Brew Fest in April and the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival on Sept. 5, which are big fundraisers for OTF.
They found new ways to serve customers, such as popcorn sales and briefly marquee rentals at the Strand, which reopens July 31.
“We will have hand sanitizers and masks for those who need them,” said Strand manager Bethany Sholl. “We will be selling tickets in the ticket booth to prevent crowding in the lobby.”
Plexiglass dividers were added to counters, staff will clean everything between shows and patrons will sit every other row. The Strand will sell tickets for half its seating capacity.
"People seem to be excited to come back. We are hoping all the upcoming movies keep their current premiere dates so we can keep this opening date,” said Sholl.
The Art & Craft Gallery reopened June 5, recommending all customers wear face masks and use the sanitizer set up by the front door and at the register counter.
“We are only allowing 15 customers in the building at one time, practice safe social distancing and if someone is feeling ill they may not enter the building,” said gallery art director Lori LaPearl.
Nearby, 412 Coffee put tables on the sidewalk and 1787 Brewing Company set up outdoor seating in the alleyway.
“I hope in the near future, the virus subsides and people feel more confident with getting out and about to support their local businesses,” Kershner said.