On Friday, May 8, some low-risk businesses throughout Santa Barbara County were given the greenlight to partially reopen, but with appropriate safeguards in place, including curbside delivery for retail sales.
Antique, book, clothing, floral, jewelry, music, shoe, home and furnishing, sporting goods and toy stores can all reopen for curbside pick-up as long as they continue to maintain physical distancing protocols for staff and customers. Supply chains supporting these businesses, in manufacturing and logistical sectors, may also reopen while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines.
The partial reopening is compliant with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Phase II of the four-part staged reopening of the state’s economy. For some businesses, this is a critical shift which will allow for increased services. For others, this will be only a slight change—in some ways, formally condoning tactics they had already implemented.
In the eight weeks of Phase I’s complete closure of nonessential storefronts, many businesses adapted their models to online orders and contactless shipping, even curbside delivery.
The owner of Carpinteria’s Murphy’s Vinyl Shack, Kevin Murphy, said that he’s happy his shop is included in the partial reopening, but he’s not sure how big the impact will be.
“We’re working with the powers that be and code enforcement to reopen and do what we can to honor the health environment,” he said. “But selling vintage records isn’t like a takeout meal. If you’re a pizza place it’s a natural, but for a record shop, you can’t just say, ‘give me a record but hold the pepperoni.’”
Up until this week, the shop had been completely shut down. “Some customers care about our longevity and reached out,” said Murphy, “so we were able to sell curbside. Mainly people who called were just wanting to do whatever they can to support us, but there’s only so much people can do.” Murphy’s is on Instagram and has tried other online promotions, but selling records is “really about the experience of browsing in the shop.”
So far, Murphy’s Vinyl has been able to keep their head above water. Most of their stock is on hand and they’re not losing any money on it. “But the longer it takes, the harder it is,” said Murphy. “Even when you open the doors, it doesn’t mean that people are coming back. They’ll still have to get past the fear factor.”
Fortunately, much of Murphy’s clientele is of the younger set who he thinks will be more apt to coming back sooner, and the store is “a small gig” with usually just a handful of shoppers at any given time. “It’s not like there’s 50 people in here usually anyway,” he said, noting that being able to let people in wearing masks would make a huge difference in sales.
For Carpinteria Eye Care Center, the Phase II reopening means a lot. For the last two months, the eye care clinic located in Shepard Place Shops on Casitas Pass Road has been closed, only offering services for eye emergencies and to help customers with broken glasses and contact lens needs. This week, they were able to reopen for eye exams two days a week and all other services four days a week.
Patients can now come into the store for an eye exam or to have their frames adjusted.
Eye Care staff take the temperature of all patients before they come in and maintain a sterile field, according to Joe Vega, Eye Care’s licensed optician. Employees and staff also wear masks, gloves and utilize sanitizers. Eye care products are being delivered outside.
“(The shutdown) impacted us tremendously,” said Vega, “we couldn’t see our patients for eye exams. Yesterday, a patient came in with scratched lenses and asked, ‘how is it that these other businesses were open, but people who offer needed eye care were not?’ But that was the governor’s request and we abided.”
While closed, Eye Care optometrists Dr. Steven M. Kleen and Dr. Steven R. Kleen kept in contact remotely with patients, but now they can provide eye exams and are able to see patients again.
The clinic has been busy since partially reopening. In the first week since reopening, they have mostly filled their appointment blocks. Still, Vega noted, “there are patients that have called and are due for an eye exam but are hesitant to come in because of Covid-19 restrictions; we’re aware that it’s going to take some time.”
For Seaside Makers Collective on Linden Avenue, Phase II is good news, because it’s progress, but like for Murphy’s Vinyl, it’s also not a big change since so many retail purchases are experience driven.
The shop is now open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for garden pickups. “We’ve been excited to see a few people for pickups,” said Kristin Fraser, owner of The Grapeseed Company and Seaside Makers Collective, “but since we aren’t actually allowed to let people inside the shop, not much has changed for us in ‘Phase II.’ It’s super slow and will continue to be while the stay-at-home order is still in effect and there is no tourism or day trippers—a major customer base at this time of year.”
Seaside Makers has promoted sales by offering free shipping, delivery or pick up and adjusted to online and phone-in sales. Many locals have adapted to placing orders online or by phone to support the business, but “they are definitely missing browsing,” said Fraser.
One small help for the business has been that The Grapeseed Company, which owns Seaside Makers, is considered “essential” as a manufacturer of personal care products. “I quickly built a Seaside Makers shop on the Grapeseed webstore,” said Fraser, “so we could continue to sell favorite maker goods from the store online.” Fraser and her team have been shipping orders out of their Carpinteria Avenue warehouse during “this entire Covid-19 ride,” she said.
“Like many business owners out there,” said Fraser, “I had to pivot to make it this far, many are closing doors for good. I created a new product, our Local Love Hand+Surface Sanitizing Spritzes under the new CDC guidelines, and dedicated the three scents, Carpinteria Seaside, Santa Barbara Sunshine and Los Olivos Lavender to saving our stores.”
Unfortunately, Fraser had to close her Los Olivos shop for good this week. “It was bittersweet, but the right choice for the unforeseen future. It’s a brutal time for any brick and mortar-based business right now. The Carp shop was our first and holds a special place in my heart as a Carp resident. I really hope we can keep it open, but if we are still in Phase II in June, that may not be a reality.”