It’s business as usual for some shops, ‘devastating’ for others
MARSHALL — When Gov. Tim Walz announced another two-week extension of a stay-at-home order for Minnesota on Thursday, he also said more retail businesses could open for curbside pickup or delivery. But it might not have been the news that many Minnesota business owners were waiting for.
“It’s a step, but it’s a small step,” said Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Gruhot. Gruhot said he’s been hearing a growing number of concerns about how small businesses will be able to survive, compared to large retailers that have stayed open through the COVID-19 crisis. “I’ve heard that question posed many, many times this week,” he said.
Walz said Thursday that the stay-at-home order will be extended through May 18. Under the governor’s order, businesses like bars and restaurants will stay closed except for take-out orders. However, retail businesses could reopen with certain restrictions, like only having curbside pickup with minimal interaction with customers. Businesses like household goods rentals, maintenance and repair services, and pet groomers would also be allowed to reopen as long as they could meet those standards.
While the governor’s order didn’t open up barber shops and salons, it did say those businesses could sell retail products.
The new order won’t mean much change for some Marshall small businesses, like shops on Main Street, Gruhot said. “A lot of those businesses have already been doing curbside delivery,” as well as promoting online sales, he said.
Service-based businesses like hair salons, spas and barbershops, which have been closed since March 17, are still in a difficult position under the extension.
Ashley Potter, of the Escape Spa in Marshall, said she’s doing her best to go with the flow. Minnesota needs to find a balance for protecting the public’s health and having people be able to work.
“We definitely want people to be safe and healthy. Yet we also want to be able to conduct business,” Potter said.
“We were hopeful for a May 4 opening date,” she said. While The Escape does sell some retail products, the spa’s revenue really comes from services. Now, she said she hopes to promote gift certificate sales, for when the business can open back up to clients.
“It’s devastating,” Vicky Felcyn, of Main Street Stylists in Marshall, said of Thursday’s order. Felcyn said so far she has already done some deliveries of styling products for clients. But hairstylists can’t survive on retail sales alone, she said.
“We’re just on hold, waiting to see what happens,” Felcyn said. Appointments with clients keep getting moved further out on the calendar.
Pet grooming services are another type of business that could be back in business under the governor’s order — and one there could be plenty of demand for.
“We’ve had all kinds of calls for grooming, this entire time,” said Theresa Welu, owner of the Animal Health Center in Marshall. As a provider of supplies and services for livestock and other animal care, the Animal Health Center has stayed open for business, with cleaning and safety measures. But Welu said pet grooming services have been on hold for the past few weeks, unless there were health concerns for the animal.
With the governor’s new order in place, “We will probably start grooming now,” she said.
“Right now, more than ever, it is critical to support local businesses,” Gruhot said.
Felcyn said the support of local residents has been important over the past few weeks. Sales of “Here For Good” T-shirts from AP Design have helped with paying bills. Felcyn said some of her clients had even sent her money they would normally have spent for their hair appointments.
“It just brings tears to your eyes, how people are reaching out to help,” she said.
The decision to extend the stay-at-home order drew criticism on Thursday from Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent.
“Minnesotans were hoping for real relief from the governor’s stay-at-home orders, but that sadly is not the case,” Swedzinski said in a statement. “This is a missed opportunity to unite Minnesotans by taking real steps toward safely re-opening our state. We have the information, preparation and planning to both keep people healthy and help workers get back on the job. Instead, there is concern this extension will only cause more damage to families and businesses in our state. More curbside service might be helpful to some, but it is nowhere near leveling the playing field for our small businesses that have been forced to close their doors, while the big retailers have been able to remain operational and can welcome foot traffic.
“I hope the governor will move as quickly as possible to help other businesses reopen their doors,” Swedzinski said.