With more small businesses reopening in Wisconsin, owners, employees and customers acclimate to the new safety guidelines put in place by economic development and public health agencies. Communities are still threatened by the spread of COVID-19 as Wisconsinites seek goods and services. How do we best protect ourselves as we leave our homes to venture back inside – into stores, salons and more?
Reopening Resources for Businesses
Wisconsin’s “Blueprint for Reopening” – the Badger Bounce Back plan announced on April 20 – has outlined the process for opening shop as the safer-at-home order lifted. It was designed to prepare owners of all kinds – hotels, fitness centers and restaurants, to name a few – to reopen safely. The plan emphasizes frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces for employees as well as social distancing and wearing face masks by both workers and customers.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has set up “best practices and safety guidelines” for multiple industries such as professional services, construction and agriculture. Business owners can download well-designed PDF files with the reopen guidelines specific to their industry.
Northeast Wisconsin has an additional resource, Be Safe Wisconsin partner New North.
“We’re here to help businesses, organizations and local communities navigate the vast amount of information concerning Wisconsin’s reopening,” said Barb LaMue, Executive Director of New North, a collaboration between regional economic development organizations and 18 counties in Northeast Wisconsin: Outagamie, Winnebago, Calumet, Waupaca, Brown, Shawano, Oconto, Marinette, Door, Kewaunee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Florence, Menominee and Waushara. “We encourage the utilization of WEDC’s Business Readiness Guides for various industries, and then customizing these to provide additional detail for each respective entity.”
New North hosts webinars and other informational sessions. In addition, the group coordinates signage for many of the downtowns in the region. “We also provide research-driven tools to help map strategy in our region’s recovery,” LaMue added.
Through their communications with different organizations, New North also encourages the continuation of social distancing, wearing protective equipment and providing proper sanitation.
Keeping the Customer in Mind
The safety measures outlined in these plans not only keep employees in mind but also customers. Many business owners have said their biggest barriers to getting patrons walking through their doors is fear, fear of catching the coronavirus as they engage with the world again. As a result, businesses are reinforcing a message of cleanliness and safety with signage, protective gear and communications to set them apart from businesses who might not be taking the proper precautions. Consumers can take reopening preparedness as a cue for visiting businesses they feel most comfortable patronizing.
In-Salon & Spa Experience
Ahava Salon and Spa, a member of Be Safe Wisconsin partner Fox Cities Chamber, has taken up a notch its cleaning and disinfecting, choosing to follow hair and nail salon guidelines as it reopened in downtown Appleton last week. Current clients have been rebooked. Due to a limited number of salons reopening, Ahava has seen new clients too. To accommodate the demand, hours of service have been extended temporarily and shifts for stylists, spa technicians and massage therapists have been staggered in the 4,000 square foot salon and spa.
“Everyone is feeling good about what we have in place,” said Bre, stylist and owner of Ahava. “The employees are very informed, and we have great protocols for cleaning. We are excited to be back in business and happy to see our clients again, especially knowing they feel safe and healthy.”
In a COVID-19 Update on its website, the salon notes: “You can expect to see our team cleaning frequently touched surfaces, as well as limiting the amount of people in the space, practicing social distance, and using proper PPE to have peace of mind.”
Just a few of the safety measures put in place:
- Clients must stay in their car when arriving for their appointment, not entering until called.
- All employees and guests will receive a temperature check prior to entering the building.
- Employees and guests are required to always wear a protective face mask.
Guests also are expected to wash or sanitize hands upon entering the building. “With washing hands being one of the most important ways to stop the spread of COVID, we want to make sure everyone is doing their part while in the salon,” Bre added.
In-Store Retail Experience
The new way of doing business for the Lullabye Shop, also a Fox Cities Chamber member, is keeping the safety of employees and customers a priority. The family-owned children’s furniture store was ready to open its doors to customers earlier this month for an in-store shopping experience.
“We want to make expectant parents feel as comfortable as possible coming into the store to shop,” said Dave Doerfler, owner of Lullabye Shop, which has a 12,000 square foot showroom. “This really is an in-store experience. Once parents get a closeup look and touch items – from car seats to cribs – they are delighted and excited by the selection.”
But Doerfler added, if parents prefer curbside pickup or home delivery, he continues to offer those services.
Despite the challenges, he is encouraged by the reopening of his store. He said he has the inventory families want as well as excellent markdowns on that furniture. “We are moving in the right direction and we support being a better business.”
Doerfler said the Lullabye Shop is following the new guidelines for retail stores to protect his workers and customers.
- Up to 5 customers can be in the store at a time.
- Face coverings are strongly encouraged for all staff and customers.
- Social distancing requirements must be observed.
- Outside the store, markings need to be placed indicating where customers should stand to remain six feet apart from one another while waiting to enter.
Drive-In Movie Experience
Drive-in movie theatres also are showing safety in their entertainment offerings.
Family-owned Chilton Twilight Drive-In Theater, one of four such theatres in Wisconsin has reopened for the summer months. Its Facebook page details its safety measures, which align with entertainment and amusement guidelines:
- Cars and trucks entering will be limited to 100-110.
- Patrons must remain in their cars except to go to concessions or restroom.
- Restrooms will have a limited capacity and disinfecting occurs every 30 minutes.
- Activities outside your car are prohibited.
- No pets at this time are allowed on premises.
- Social distancing of 6’ at all times.
The drive-in also posted: “These rules will be strictly enforced and are put into place for the safety of everyone.”
Field of Scenes Drive-In Movie Theater in Freedom opened last week, according to its Facebook page. It states: “We are all learning to adjust accordingly, and how we do things at the Field of Scenes this season will be different as well in order to keep our customers and staff safe.”
The recommendations regarding the reopening of businesses across the state had been based on federal metrics and data known as “gating criteria.” To monitor how Wisconsin is doing in moving through each of the six “gates” and getting people out of their homes and back to work, turn to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ COVID-19: Badger Bounce Back webpage.