Stores in downtown Rutland share precautions they’re taking to ensure safety and compliance
By Aliya Schneider
Under Governor Phil Scott’s order, retail stores in Vermont were allowed to open their doors on Monday, May 18, but shoppers’ experiences won’t look the same as they did before the pandemic. Scott’s goal is for a “gradual reopening,” noting that although rules will be relaxing, he encourages people to continue to limit their interactions. The order requires that employees wear face masks and that stores keep a limit to 25% of their legal capacity, or one person per 200 square feet.
Rutland businesses are now deciding for themselves when—and how—they plan to open within the state guidelines. Of those that opened Monday, many had limited hours with additional systems in place to make sure both customer and employee exposure is minimized.
Grow VT, 38 Wales St., has maintained consistent business via curbside pickup and will now be allowing customers inside one family at a time. Grow VT co-owner Sabra Notte said that they are cutting their hours in half so they can clean more thoroughly now that visitors are able to come inside. The door will stay closed, and families are instructed to knock before entering.
Draw Go Games, 9 Evely St., opened its retail space on Monday, but its game space will remain closed. Draw Go Games owner Scott Stearns and manager Zachary Hinckley explained that customers must wait in a line outside the store to maintain a six person limit inside. They noted that “everyone will be required to wear a mask,” but it is a “learning experience” for everyone, so there will inevitably be some improvising.
Fruition Fineries at 56 Merchants Row also opened its doors on Monday, with abbreviated hours and with private shopping by appointment as an option. Customers can still video chat in by appointment and use curbside pickup. Fruition Fineries Owner Rebecca Buonadonna expects a slow start to business as people adjust. She said she’s looking forward to seeing her “customers’ smiling faces… well, their smiling eyes anyway,” adding that “It’s nice to be here and just have the door open.”
McNeil & Reedy at 81 Merchants Row also opened on Monday, and will have hand sanitizer, gloves, and wipes at the front door and register. They are asking customers to wear masks, too.
Unlimited Potential, 146 West St., is opening Tuesday, May 19, with limited hours. Shopping will be by appointment only and limited to one or two people at a time. Customers can schedule appointments through the Unlimited Potential Facebook page. Unlimited Potential Owner Jessi Travers Moulton is planning the time slots so she can clean in between customers. She is wary of letting anyone in with respiratory issues since she wants to cater to those who require the most precautions, “especially because most of my customers are either pregnant or grandparents,” she said. She expects to enforce mask wearing for at least the first couple of weeks being open.
The Curiosity Shop at 18 Merchants Row also will open onTuesday, limiting customers to nine at a time. According to their Facebook page, they have rearranged their store to prevent traffic between customers. They will have hand sanitizer and discourage gloves unless they are properly sanitized. Mask wearing will be enforced for anyone over 2 years old.
Phoenix Books at 2 Center St., which has been doing call-in curbside pickup orders, plans to open on the following Tuesday, May 26, a week later than the lifted restrictions. Phoenix Books manager Will Notte said they need more time to ensure they have the necessary precautions in place before allowing customers inside. He explained that they will have disposable masks available for those who don’t have their own, and the vestibule in front that normally houses discounted books will be used as a hand sanitizing station. There will be three locations throughout the store where customers can continue to sanitize as they browse, because it “can’t hurt to use a little hand sanitizer,” he said. Additionally, there will be clear plastic shields at the cash registers as an additional safety measure. “It’s what felt safe to us,” Notte said. They will have two salespeople and eight customers at a time in the store, which is “what felt safe to us,” Notte said. He emphasized that they are planning to keep their customers informed of their policies in the friendliest way possible, so people feel welcome, even if they may be disappointed with the safety restrictions.
The Vermont Truffle Company also plans to open next week.
Mountain Music, 5 Center St., is encouraging customers to continue utilizing curbside and online shopping options. They said that they plan to allow limited in-store shopping but for now customers should contact them to make an appointment.
The Book Mobile, Haze Glass, Puro’s Coins & Jewelry, Good Stuff, Timco Jewelers, and Diamonds and More also opened on Monday. The Party Store opens Wednesday, and Gamestop will open at the end of the week.