Business owners began navigating a limited access shopping option for in-store customers this week following the newest turn of the dial in Wisconsin.
The emergency order allowing up to five customers in retail shops at a time took effect Monday, May 11. The next morning the “Open” sign at Shannon’s Stained Glassery was lit for the first time in nearly two months. Owner Shannon Johnson couldn’t stop smiling.
“I am giddy,” she said. “It’s a new normal, but it’s so nice to have people in here again and get face-to-face interaction.”
Twila Uotinen has owned Once Again Used & New gift shop for eight years — five at the current location in the Fastenal building and three at Missinne’s Greenhouse.
She said the customers who stopped in Tuesday were itching to get out and shop.
“I think we’re dancing a little jig in the parking lot,” said Cindy Telega.
Jason Matic, who owns Games Then and Now and Annie’s Attic with his wife Diane, said it felt awesome to reopen.
“I have been very busy since we opened the doors,” Matic said, with 15 visitors in the first hour at the game store.
Tom Unterberger, owner of Globe News and Vinyl Cave, reopened Tuesday with plexiglass shields at the sales counters.
Unterberger saw almost all of his regular customers. In fact, so many customers stopped by that some had to wait outside until others cleared the building.
“We had people who were gracious about waiting until there was room,” Unterberger said.
All of the businesses have been offering curbside service, and all but Globe News have been featured by the Superior Gift Card Club. The Facebook project has been raffling off gift certificates from Superior businesses that have been shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. For most raffles, people pay $10 per spot for the chance to win a $100 gift card.
“The Gift Card Club was phenomenal,” Uotinen said. “They helped pay my Superior Water, Light & Power bill.”
The club is expected to continue while restrictions are in place, according to administrator and co-founder Craig Sutherland.
“I can see this slowing down as we start to bounce back,” he said. “It has served its purpose and raised just over $75,000. The community sure knows how to step up.”
Sutherland said the program may return for the holidays, as well.
When state officials forced businesses to close in March, many business owners got creative. Uotinen leaned on Facebook to connect with curbside customers, which led to good Mother’s Day sales. She also received a grant from the city to cover rent.
Matic spent the first week of the shutdown adding an online store to the Games Then and Now website. Its items, including 3-D printed mask ear saver strips, have been shipped throughout the nation. Repairs accounted for much of the shop’s sales during the last two months. Matic had just added 3-D printing services and Pokemon cards to the shop's offerings. He applied for federal small business help, but was told no funding was available.
“We’ve dug into savings to keep things going,” Matic said.
Unterberger used the two-month shutdown to put new inventory on the floor, including about 10,000 vinyl 45s.
“People with juke boxes are going to be very happy,” Unterberger said.
Johnson continued to serve curbside customers, holding up different colors of glass for them to see from inside the store. She was happy to let visitors pick and choose from the entire selection again.
The small business owners said they are grateful to community members and customers for their continued support through the public health emergency.
“Superior people, they just came together so well,” Uotinen said.
Safety precautions remain in place at the stores, including a focus on cleaning and sanitizing between visitors. Some shops ask that customers wear gloves when handling items; mask use is encouraged; hand washing and use of sanitizer is stressed.
Curbside service remains available for those who prefer not to enter the stores. Visitors may want to call or check social media before stopping by businesses, as hours may be different.