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Retailers adapt to stay open

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Kay Ivey has shut down most businesses deemed nonessential as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Even essential businesses have had to change how they operate to maintain social distancing recommendations.

Retailers in Chilton County are no exception.

Among essential retailers are those who provide repair services or supplies for vehicles, such as NAPA Jemison Auto Parts.

“We have signs on our door about keeping social distance,” co-owner Donna Robertson said. “We have cones and tape set up in front of our counter at six feet.”

Robertson said customers as well as employees are being asked to follow the six feet of separation rule throughout the store.

Each day, the store’s often-used surfaces are sprayed down with disinfectant. Employees also try to keep those in the store to under 10.

A pickup option has been implemented to help with this. Robertson said customers can call the store or go online to order items for pickup. Items are then brought out to the car.

“Surprisingly, we have been very busy,” Robertson said. “It has been very steady … We have been very blessed to have a continued business.”

Employees are also being reminded often to wash their hands and to not touch their face.

“For the most part, people have been very good about adhering to the guidelines,” Robertson said.

While NAPA’s hours of operation have remained the same, some businesses, including The Barking Frog in Maplesville, have changed the hours they are open during this time.

“With less travel comes less need for a convenience store, so it has decreased,” Wesley Hicks of The Barking Frog said. “Our sales volumes are off by as much as 50 percent.”

In addition, the store is limiting the number of people in the store at one time to 3 and prohibiting children unless they are infants. The convenience store has also limited the number of trips one individual can make per day.

“We have basically restructured everything,” Hicks said. “We have pretty much encapsulated our employees within a plexiglass screen to kind of isolate them from the individual customers.”

As with every business that remains open during this time, employees are following the six feet of separation social distancing recommendation.

Employees are also using hand sanitizer on a regular basis. The store has eliminated overtime, but the employees that have been retained are still getting 40 hours a week.

Some nonessential retailers in the county have turned to shipping products or providing a pickup-only option to stay in business. Hope’s Chest in Clanton has also added hand sanitizer to its list of offerings, and it has become a hot item.

“I just re-ordered another order of the sanitizer,” owner Adena Green said. “I didn’t realize I could get it, or I would already have been getting it for them, but I didn’t think I could get it because everything has been on backorder. I ordered it, and it came immediately.”

She was also able to purchase some masks, which she has been giving away to essential employees.

Green said the store has started a pickup option for customers on a table just inside the door. The door and table are sprayed with disinfectant after each use. Customers are also offered bleach wipes.

For those who pay by phone, Green can bring the items out to their trunk.

The store had shipped some items previously but has increased sales through this option during the pandemic. Green said she decided to promote this option after the first case was confirmed in Chilton County. At that time, she thought about closing the store. However, the pickup options seemed to be successful, so the store has continued to sell.

Green and her daughter are the only employees working right now. Other employees have been sent home during this time.

While business has slowed down, Green remained positive.

“I have been so blessed that I can’t put it into words,” Green said. “I have been very fortunate to be able to be here … I am firm believer in saying it is going to be busy. Things are going to get better. I pray over my store, and it just keeps coming.”

Green has also focused on the store social media presence and planning for future holidays.

Just when retailers will be able to return to in-store sales is unknown at this time. Residents are encouraged to check local businesses’ social media pages and websites to see if their favorites are still operating during this time.