Back to business

With the stay-at-home order expiring Monday, retail businesses in the state are allowed to open their doors with a few guidelines. Owners in Fergus Falls had a mixed reaction to reopening during the pandemic.

Downtown Fergus Falls retailers are gearing up for the “new normal.” 

Beginning Monday, some retailers have the permission of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to open their doors to in-house foot traffic once again. Retailer’s reactions Friday morning ranged from ecstatic to pensive.

After weeks of following an emergency order from the state designed to save lives by stemming the tide of COVID-19 cases, retailers will be back in business by Monday, May 18

“We’re super excited,” said Stephanie Dykhoff, owner of The bric on West Lincoln Avenue. “We’re excited to have our customers back because we’re sitting on tons of product.”

Dykhoff sells women’s apparel and accessories in her Fergus Falls store and depends on her summer sales to help the business remain open year-around.

Another Fergus Falls business owner that is looking forward to opening her doors is Jody Mauch of Mauk Jewelers. 

“We’re really excited to help people out,” Mauch said. “We’re looking forward to returning to some normalcy.”

Reopening has produced its share of labor.

“It’s a lot of extra work to protect our customers and our inventory,” Mauch said.

Just down the street at the corner of Lincoln and Mill, Cooper’s Office Supply manager Shawna Shale has run into extra work but she also feels extra fortunate.

“We’re doing a soft opening,” Shale said. “We have some at-risk employees so we’re preparing a lot for their safety.”

Shale has been dealing with a massive rise in the cost of acrylic sneeze panels, which Cooper’s orders from vendors for their customers.

“We’re not trying to profit but we are trying to actively assist,” Shale said. “We’re very lucky. We’re in business-to-business sales so walk-through traffic is not really necessary to keep our heads above water.”

Paul Lundeen of the Victor Lundeen Company has mixed feelings about reopening.

“It’s great that we can do it but not everyone is comfortable with it,” Lundeen said.

Lundeen’s will not be reopening right away.

“We’re waiting for some hand sanitation stations,” Lundeen said.

The Lincoln Avenue mainstay has been offering curbside service since May 4.

“It’s still pretty busy,” Lundeen said. “Most of our employees are back.”

Biffley’s, a bookstore across the street from Lundeen’s, is not likely to be open when business hours start Monday but owner Robert Stout is still pondering the decision. There are rules to follow in connection with reopening stores for foot traffic.

“I have employee safety to consider and a lot of my customers are elderly,” Stout said. “I’m fortunate that I have a pretty vibrant online business.”

Walz did not extend the stay-at-home order for Minnesotans on Wednesday, opening the door for small retailers to unlock their shops on the condition they have a social distancing plan in place and operate at 50% capacity. 

Bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons along with other businesses, are expected to reopen June 1.

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