Park City’s reopening: sanitizer, a one-way showroom, and a masked alpaca doll
Zia Boccaccio awaited the arrival of Saturday for more than a month.
The owner of Alpaca International, a Main Street shop that sells jackets, sweaters and accessories made from the fur of alpacas, reopened the store on Saturday, ending a closure that stretched from March 15. The spread of the novel coronavirus forced numerous businesses in Park City to close during the final weeks of the ski season as health officials attempted to halt the illness. The mountain resorts were shuttered, and Main Street suffered terribly as well. Health orders and the continued concern of many consumers, meanwhile, are influencing Park City businesses as they begin to reopen.
“It’s starting from scratch, completely from scratch,” Boccaccio said about the reopening of Alpaca International, describing taking numerous steps that are needed to operate the store in a retail environment influenced by the coronavirus worries. “The reality is completely different.”
There is evidence of the changed retail environment visible throughout the store as Alpaca International moves to protect the health of customers and staffers. Health guidelines are posted, there is sanitizer available to customers and a sheet of plexiglass is posted between the staffer working the cash register and customers. A sign posted at Alpaca International indicates a maximum of five customers are allowed inside an any one time, people must wear masks inside and the store wants people inside to stay at least 6 feet away from others as Alpaca International practices social distancing.
The store has also designed a one-way route through the shelves ands racks, delineating the direction with red arrows on the floor that guide customers from the entry, toward the merchandise in the rear and then back toward the cash register and the door. The merchandise layout was also changed, and Boccaccio opted for goods with a lighter color and differing textures than is typical.
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“They wanted to see sure signs of hope, colorful, happy,” she said about the desires of customers as the spread of the coronavirus continues.
The efforts at Alpaca International are likely similar to those that have or will be undertaken at many shops, boutiques and galleries in coming weeks, as more places reopen with the summer-tourism season approaching. The retail industry in Park City must comply with the health guidelines, but it also needs to ensure it offers an environment that will provide some level of comfort to shoppers who might continue to be leery of being in tight quarters with others.
Each business will make its own decisions regarding reopening dates and hours. They will also have latitude as they rework the insides so long as they comply with health orders. There has been widespread attention on Main Street, the best-known shopping, dining and entertainment district in Park City, but similar steps will be taken at businesses elsewhere as well.
The Main Street core, which relies heavily on sales from visitors to Park City, took a significant hit in business with the early closure of the mountain resorts and a stay-at-home order that severely restricted activities other than those that were deemed essential, such as grocery shopping. Many Main Street businesses temporarily close at the end of the ski season to remodel, restock or provide time off to staffers, but the shutdowns this year started during March, a usually lucrative month as skiers and snowboarders arrive for late-season vacations. City Hall has projected a significant drop in sales-tax numbers, reflecting the business conditions across Park City. Officials are worried the low numbers will continue for months.
The Historic Park City Alliance, an organization that represents businesses in the Main Street core, has drafted a months-long plan to reignite the street. The plan outlines numerous ideas like a marketing campaign and creating so-called “Vibrancy Days” to attract people to Main Street.
Last weekend was the first since the shutdown that appeared at least outwardly to have drawn crowds, although they were not consistent throughout Saturday and Sunday. There were people seen shopping, strolling and enjoying meals on the outdoor dining decks. The leadership of the Historic Park City Alliance on Monday said it had not compiled sales estimates from the businesses that were open last weekend.
At Alpaca International, sales on Saturday were better than they were on Sunday. The numbers on Saturday beat expectations, but Boccaccio acknowledged the projections were low compared to a typical Saturday in May. She said she hopes foot traffic through the store will steadily increase over the next several months, as customer trust rises regarding the health measures.
“They couldn’t wait to come around. … They don’t even think of going to any mall,” she said about the shoppers last weekend, adding that they want to back Main Street. “Now they want to support small, local businesses.”
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