Marietta businesses prepare to reopen

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some restless Ohioans are pushing for society to officially reopen, and some businesses are cautiously hopeful that they will soon be able to resume operations and have a source of income.

They could soon get their wish.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said some businesses may begin to re-open in early May if they take the proper precautions. Those precautions include providing a safe place to work for employees.

Small business owners in the Mid-Ohio Valley couldn’t be more ready as the statewide stay-at-home orders in both Ohio and West Virginia have caused profits to plummet, especially for those businesses deemed unessential.

“To be honest, it’s been a very negative impact. It hurts, especially because we were just finishing the post-holiday slump and looking forward to March and April where traffic starts to pick up,” said Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit and Whimsy in Marietta.

Pytlik said she has used her time away to work on her store’s website. She’s been able to use that virtual tool to sell some inventory and escape harder economic times.

However, she did have to lay off her one part-time worker, who she says will be returning to work soon thanks to a federal paycheck-protection loan.

That worker will be cleaning in preparation for re-opening in the coming weeks.

Pytlik said she’s following guidelines and awaiting instructions from the state on how to be prepared to reopen. She has already purchased a glass shield for the store’s register, and she said she might even buy masks for people to use in her store, if she can find any.

She’s also going to put out hand sanitizer and plans to limit the amount of people who can enter her business.

“That’s probably going to be a small number. Maybe five to eight people at a time,” said Pytlik.

Other businesses are implementing similar practices.

“We're playing by the rules. We're exercising all the caution that's been handed out by the state and local government officials. Masks, spacing and we're also making the barriers on top of our showcases,” said Baker & Baker Jewelers owner Larry Hall.

Hall is even rearranging his back offices to keep employees farther apart. He’ll also be limiting how many people can be in his store.

He said his business has been negatively impacted by the shutdown, and he is ready to reopen.

“We’re exercising all caution going forward, we just can’t wait for that day,” said Hall. “I just want everybody to be safe and for them to know to patronize the local businesses. It’s going to be way, way different.”

Coincidentally, Penninghaus Jewelers was bought and renamed to Baker & Baker in 1918 during the Spanish Influenza epidemic.

“It’s an interesting thing, we’ve survived floods, and fires and all kinds of things, but this is new,” said Hall.

To boost business, Hall said his company will open the very first day they can with a soft opening. He says they will be offering some free services to customers. He calls it a “soft opening with a warm welcome.”

To bolster interest in her business, Pytlik has been working hard on her website and plans to continue using it going forward. When shops do reopen, she says she’ll continue her curbside pick up service.