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Shops and service industries turn focus to operating safely

Posted on Jun 30, 2020 :: New North
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It was a beautiful June night that in years past could have drawn upward of 10,000 visitors to Green Bay’s Farmers’ Market on Broadway to socialize and shop. Instead, a much smaller crowd of around 1,500 gathered at Leicht Memorial Park to buy fresh, local food.

While the market may look different this summer, Chelsea Kocken, market manager and assistant director of On Broadway Inc., says the organization was pleased to unite farmers with people hungry to support them and buy healthy food.

“It was a very positive experience all around,” Kocken says. “The vendors were obviously happy to have that outlet to sell their products and generate that income. The public seemed to be very understanding (of guidelines).”

On Broadway, in consultation with the City of Green Bay, the Department of Health Services and the Brown County Health Department, developed several safety guidelines. The market is now held in Leicht Memorial Park to allow vendors to operate 15 feet apart and attendees to space themselves 6 feet apart. The new venue allows for one entry and exit point to help On Broadway manage capacity.

All vendors and volunteers wear masks, and attendees are encouraged, but not required, to also wear one. Other changes include eliminating seating intended for consuming products, nonessential vendors such as those selling arts and crafts and prepared food, entertainment activities, food sampling, and the touching of products. Kocken says

On Broadway will continue to monitor the situation and modify
policies commensurately. On Broadway is just one organization that had to act quickly to add new processes to open and operate safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., says her organization has mobilized to help businesses of all kinds do just that.

In developing its reopening guidelines as part of the Badger Bounce Back plan, the WEDC worked with businesses as well as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. “They’re super practical and thoughtful and realistic for what businesses need to be thinking about,” Hughes says.

While the WEDC developed specific protocols for several industries, common threads include enforcing social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, adding protective barriers and providing personal protective equipment to employees, Hughes says.

Salon Aura, which operates two salons in Appleton and one each in Green Bay and Kohler, has added many precautions to keep employees and guests safe. To prepare for reopening, staff members procured sanitizer, alcohol, masks, touchless thermometers, bleach wipes and Barbicide for cleaning implements after each use. Stylists are spaced 6 feet apart, and both stylists and guests must wear masks.

While the salon experience looks different for people, Kate Vomastic, assistant manager of Salon Aura on Calumet Street in Appleton, says most clients happily accept the guidelines and have been ecstatic to return for their haircuts and other services.

“Our goal has always been to create a relaxing environment for each person that walks through our doors. Everyone, including (Salon Aura owner) Jim Gill, helped with cleaning and gathering PPE. If everyone isn’t on board, none of this will work,” Vomastic says.

Operating a clothing store can present a special set of challenges, more so when it’s a resale shop like Sunrise on Main in Green Bay. The store, whose proceeds support the women’s empowerment nonprofit Reset.Life, moved into a new, larger location in June. With that, owner Joan Johnson implemented several new measures.

Only seven customers can come in at one time, hand sanitizer is available, and the checkout area includes a Plexiglass barrier. Any clothing donations Sunrise receives sit for at least three days before staff members touch the items. They then steam the clothing both before it makes it onto the floor and after customers try on any items.

Johnson says she’s following both CDC and state and regional guidelines. “We feel good about it. We’re doing all the things that are recommended,” she says.

Hughes acknowledges that adding safety measures costs businesses time and money and limiting the number of customers also means limiting revenue. She encourages businesses to take this opportunity to think of ways to diversify and become more flexible.

“It’s really a question of standing in the middle of your shop or your cafe and reimagining what it’s like in the new normal to meet your customers’ needs and your employees’ needs,” she says.

On the web

To view all the WEDC’s regularly updated guidelines on opening and operating safely, visit wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.