Governor Kim Reynolds has announced more easing of restrictions on business activity. That might be welcome news for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, but not all of them are ready to open their doors. The latest order allowing more business activity went into effect on Friday. That follows an earlier lifting of restrictions on May 1. Many area businesses have been preparing for this day in hopes of drawing their customers back to a safe and secure environment.
Mary Hughes of Mary Jo’s Hobo House in Britt believes that the customer base will eventually return.
Bill Eckels, owner of The Cobbler Shoppe in Britt says he has seen a good return to his customer base and believes that the people are ready to get back to a normal life.
Things aren’t quite so perfect around the rest of the state, particularly when you look in some of the hardest hit regions. Mindy Bergstrom, owner of Cooks’ Emporium in Ames, says sales are down, but online orders have allowed her store to stay afloat. Even though she could open her doors to a limited capacity, Bergstrom says safety concerns are more prominent right now.
Bergstrom says she would like more assurances that the state is seeing a clear downward trend in the spread of COVID-19. Governor Reynolds says most of Iowa’s 22 counties that had continued restrictions have either stabilized or have seen cases go down. But top U.S. health officials testified before Congress this week, warning that reopening state economies too soon could lead to a resurgence of outbreaks.
Geri Aglipay, Midwest senior outreach manager for the group Small Business Majority, says smaller stores want to help their communities see a rebound in economic activity, but it can be harder for them to make decisions about reopening. She says there’s concern about enforcing proper guidelines.
Bergstrom says it’s also harder for smaller businesses because they don’t have the space to spread out customers, even with restrictions that call for a limited number of patrons.
In Iowa, businesses that are reopening have to limit their customers to 50% capacity and encourage social distancing.