Businesses take steps to reopen as restrictions ease

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Like the first sunny day after a long winter, Claremont took the first steps to restarting its dormant economy last Friday when a smattering of businesses were allowed to reopen.

The clouds only parted a small amount, though, because the reality of operating a small business remains very uncertain as long as the constant existential threat posed by the coronavirus remains. Forced to balance lost revenue against protecting the health of employees and customers, business owners must make small and large decisions daily that could ultimately determine whether they survive or are forced to close for good.

Still, there is reason for cautious optimism with several of Claremont’s longtime businesses finally able to turn on the lights.

Boon Companion on Harvard Avenue in the Claremont Village just opened its doors on Tuesday after the owners spent several hours over the weekend getting ready.

In February of 2014, John and his wife Chris Peltekci took over ownership of the landmark toy store from Reed and Nancy Johnson who ran it for 30 years.

Mr. Peltekci said the Village has been quiet and there have not been too many customers. But he hopes to get the word out that they are open. People can call ahead or if they know exactly what they want he will bring it to the door.

Being closed for such a long time has definitely hurt revenue, but he is trying to keep a good attitude. “It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is, and we are all going through it together,” he said.

The relaxing of the now seven-week-old stay-at-home order began at the state level and then trickled down through the county’s Roadmap to Recovery and then to Claremont. Businesses are now allowed to serve customers on a limited basis, including retailers selling books, toys, clothing, sporting goods, music and flowers.

The owners of Sherwood Florist on Foothill Boulevard got a welcome boost when they were allowed to reopen just before Mother’s Day, one of the shop’s busiest weekends. In fact, business was so brisk that co-owner Juan De Lira had to stop taking orders Friday afternoon because he had sold out of flowers. Still, he is very thankful to his loyal customers who definitely came out in force to support his shop.

They had so many Mother’s Day orders, by Tuesday they were still filling the last ones. Requests came in from throughout the Inland Valley, but they focused on filling the local orders first.

“I really appreciate the help and support from the community. We have been closed for five weeks so it has been rough,” Mr. De Lira said. “I have never seen it like this before, I think very few florists will survive.”

Many flower shops across the southland were unable to fill customer’s orders due to a shortage of flowers, but Mr. De Lira’s 27-year tenure helped him locate a few sellers with the flowers he needed. Some came from greenhouses, others from Ecuador.

This is the second time in a year business at Sherwood Florist has been impacted by forces beyond Mr. De Lira’s control.

The complete redesign of Foothill Boulevard in 2019 all but choked off customers from shopping at his store, because they either assumed he was closed, or simply could not reach the building. To make matters worse, the original estimate of two to three months for the project stretched to Thanksgiving.

Mr. De Lira received money from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which helps keep his nine employees paid. Plus, history is on his side. During the Great Depression, florists and liquor stores were two business that did relatively well. “I guess even if you don’t have much, some nice flowers brings hope and happiness to people,” he said.

A little more good news came out on Wednesday when the Los Angeles County Public Health Department announced additional businesses and recreational areas could open.

“A new Health Officer Order is being issued today that replaces the previous Health Officer Order and allows for lower-risk businesses and select recreational facilities and beaches to reopen,” health department officials said in a statement.

The new order applies to all retailers that are not located in an indoor mall or shopping center. These businesses will still not be allowed to let customers inside, but must rely on curbside pick up or delivery. Manufacturing and logistic businesses that supply retail businesses may also reopen.

Before any business can reopen, the owners must prepare and post a plan for adhering to the social distancing and cleaning directives in the health order.

The text of the new health order also allows beaches to reopen for active recreation including swimming and running, however, group sports or gatherings such as picnics are still verboten. Other public areas that will be allowed to reopen include golf courses, tennis courts, shooting and archery ranges, equestrian centers and community gardens.

“This order continues to require that specific higher-risk businesses remain closed and prohibits public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit,” public health officials said.

Keep your head up Claremont—blue skies will be shining on you before too long.

 

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