Another group of Sonoma County retailers expected to get clearance for partial reopening
By the end of the week, another wave of Sonoma County retail that’s been dormant since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will slowly come back to life.
Local and state officials said Monday a group of retailers can expect to partially resume operations by selling goods customers can order and pick up outside stores.
Bookstores, music stores, toy stores, retailers of sporting goods are among the businesses expected to get clearance to reopen for curbside pickup as early as Friday. They will join other establishments already doing carryout sales, including restaurants, breweries and wineries. Shopping malls, however, are not going to be included in this reopening stage.
“As early as the end of this week, you will have the capacity as a retailer, with the modifications and the guidelines we set forth on Thursday, to begin to reopen for pickup,” Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday during his daily press briefing.
Just hours later, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said the county would follow the governor’s lead and expand the types of retailers allowed to do curbside business. Effective Monday, Mase already had relaxed stay-home restrictions that had been in place since March 18 to reopen a handful of small companies operating in the floral, plant nursery, pool cleaning, automobile sales and construction sectors, among others. The forthcoming retail reopening will be broader and include many mom-and-pop merchants.
Retail operators, of course, were elated by the news, but said allowing them soon to reopen their stores for customers is the only thing that can keep them alive over the long haul.
“It can’t come soon enough. We’re dying. I call it starvation in place,” said Michael “Hoyt” Wilhelm, co-owner of The Last Record Store on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. “We are a very tactile business. People got to come in and look at the stuff and see it. … It’s really something that you can’t do effectively over the internet.”
Online sales represent just 2% of the overall revenue for the popular store for music fans. Wilhelm said in-person shopping needs to come as quickly as possible to keep the vinyl record shop afloat after almost 50 days in the dark.
Asked how much longer his shop could survive without a full reopening, Wilhelm said: “I don’t even want to think about it.”
Other than retailers deemed essential by county health officials — such as grocers, supermarkets and home-improvement stores — most in the retail sector have been in the same boat since COVID-19 crushed the local economy: furlough workers, shut down most or all operations and as long as there’s 500 or fewer people on the payroll, try desperately to get a slice of the hundreds of billions of dollars Uncle Sam offered nationwide to prop up small businesses.
Sonoma Outfitters, a family owned sporting goods store for 40 years, did take advantage of the federal lifeline, securing a loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and now will be able to resume limited selling with five employees returning to work this week.
“The minute they say we can open or do curbside or anything, we will be ready,” said Debra Knick, co-owner of the store in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village shopping center. “We have been totally shutdown.”