Retailers reflect on reopening process

Jul 3, 2020

Frank Fletcher started working at the Marion Sports Shop in the early 1950s and has been the owner since 1966. In all his time there, he has never seen a business disruptor such as the coronavirus pandemic. 

As businesses open back up, owners and workers reflect on their experiences thus far in getting things back to “normal.”

The clothing shop was closed for two and a half months. Fletcher went to the store daily to cancel and reverse orders. He said manufacturers were still sending him cancelled clothing orders, or billing him for shipments that never came in because they were cancelled.

It created a “mess,” Fletcher said.

Being in business for over 60 years, Fletcher has seen economic downturns before, but he wasn’t worried about the store going under. 

To make up for losses, he made appointment-only visits for one customer at a time before opening up to the public on June 8. 

Now back open, he is “pleased with business we’ve been getting,” and said it’s good to know that customers were concerned about the store during the shutdown.

In Mattapoisett, Isabelle’s owner Jessica Kelly still sold clothes and other items online through social media and its website that was created by her during the shutdown.

Jill Pitman, who works at Isabelle’s, said that people are “really grateful that we’re open.” 

In the state’s third phase of its reopening plan, dressing rooms are available to use by appointment. 

Pitman said that most customers haven’t used them since reopening. 

Returning clothes is more cumbersome too because items have to sit out for three days before being put back on the shelves. 

Mattapoisett resident Joey Riley said she is “so relieved this place is open” because she doesn’t have to contend with malls.

Boutique Fitness has been doing virtual classes and Zoom personal training sessions while its physical space has been closed. 

“I have never worked so hard in my life,” co-owner Lara Harrington said, because she felt the pressure to both keep her coaches engaged and because she felt like she has a particularly close-knit community and felt she had to stay positive for them. 

The fitness company hosted a spring program that was supposed to combine a workout and nutrition program, and ended up making a library of workout videos for the program’s participants. 

Harrington’s trainers will start private sessions with trainees on July 6. Though the maximum class size in the small gym is four, the co-owner said it is best to follow all the protocol that the governor releases, even if it limits her business for a little longer. 

She also rearranged the entrances at Boutique Fitness so gym users can keep their distance. The floor is now marked as well so they know where to stand during a workout. 

At Kitchen and Baths, Certified Kitchen Designer Brett Gonsalves said he learned that there is a lot more that can be done remotely with the use of technology.

While the showroom was closed, he met with clients over Zoom. With the help of screen sharing capabilities, he could show people 3D design models in applications that he already uses. 

The pandemic “didn’t really phase us a lot,” Gonsalves said.

For projects scheduled during the shutdown, some didn’t miss a beat, but others were delayed two to three months. 

While his offices are in Massachusetts, he sources materials from out-of-state. A manufacturer he uses in Pennsylvania closed during the shutdown, but another in Kentucky was deemed essential.

“For the most part, everybody was understanding,” he said.

Open since June 15, the showroom is open by appointment only. So far, Gonsalves said that appointments are going good and clients are moving ahead with projects.