Above: Civil has been doing curbside sales during the COVID-19 shutdown and will reopen the store Monday.  

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

With Phase I of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s reopening plan set to begin this weekend, non-essential retailers will be allowed to have customers into their stores for the first time since March, when the governor closed businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Several local retailers are planning to open their doors, though not without some trepidation.

Lois Hollingsworth, owner of Zuzu’s dress shop on Main Street, said she will reopen Saturday (5/9) from 10:30 to 5, hoping to grab at least a bit of pre-Mother’s Day traffic. 

“My thought is to kind of have a soft opening,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s only going to be me in the beginning.”

Zuzu’s has 900 sq. ft. – under the governor’s guidelines (300 sq. ft. for every one customer) that would mean the store could accommodate 3 customers at a time. 

“I’m going to ask people to wear masks,” she said, and she will have hand sanitizer on hand. One challenge is how to handle clothing after it’s been tried on. There is so much clothing in the store, she said she didn’t imagine there would be a lot of people wanting to try on the same item in rapid succession.

“It’s all going to be dependent on whether people are going to come out. That’s the big question,” said Hollingsworth. “Some people are very, very, very nervous.”

If things go well, she said her plan was to be open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Spring is usually a busy time for Zuzu’s, since the store carries a lot of dresses suitable for weddings, graduations, and special events. Of course, there won’t be many big weddings and events for the next few months anyway. The irony of this year’s particularly cool spring has not been lost on her either.

“This is the first year I could have successfully sold all my spring sweaters!”

Heading north on Main Street, Civil has been doing a curbside business during the shutdown but will reopen the store Monday. With 1,200 sq. ft, and a wide open floor plan, customers have a lot of room to roam. 

Across the street, Bags by Iris will reopen Saturday but owner Iris Gesualdi has kept busy in recent weeks, selling items by posting a few photos every day on the store’s Facebook page. She then meets the customer at the store for delivery or mails the order. It’s been remarkably effective, though she acknowledges the steep discounts haven’t hurt.

“Everything I put on Facebook sells. I really mark things down,” said Gesualdi. Not surprisingly, masks have been a big seller. Her order of four dozen Vera Bradley masks were all spoken for before they even arrived, sight unseen. Patriots and Red Sox face masks have been selling well too.

Gesualdi said she could accommodate up to five customers at a time but she’s not sure if she will. One important note: Gesualdi does not want anyone in the store without a face cover of some king. You’ve been warned.

Over on Frenchtown Road, David Bosco, owner of Wildwood Nursery, has been reopened for about a week and it was “just in the nick of time,” he said Thursday.

“We’re very happy we can allow people in store,” he said. “It would have been devastating sale-wise to miss this time.”

Pezza Farm and Garden Center on South County Trail has been open the whole time, thanks to the produce, baked goods and local products it stocks. They have been doing a brisk business. 

Not everyone is rushing to reopen, however. 

For Susan Swanson, owner of The Green Door gift store on Main Street, it’s complicated. The store has 1,600 sq. ft. of space, but it’s full of small spaces. Swanson said she couldn’t see how social distancing would work. And, while many shop owners are setting up plexiglass, Swanson said she just didn’t see how that would work in her store – ”the thing about the store is touch,” she said. 

Swanson said she plans to open an online store and, eventually, reopen the store. 

“When I reopen it will probably be a few days a week for limited times,” she said. One consideration is her staff, all women over age 60 (COVID-19 has been more deadly among people 60 and older so caution has been urged).

Swanson has packed away all the Easter and Mother’s Day items for next year. She has lots on order for Christmas, but she’s put them on hold for now.

“My biggest concern with reopening is we do it too quickly and we lose Christmas.”


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