As many downtown Franklin businesses deemed nonessential get ready to reopen Wednesday under Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Pledge, some were able to find a bright spot in the lockdown of the past several weeks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They were able to spot a silver lining even through the uncertainty that seemed to persist endlessly.
Take The Purple Butterfly, for instance, a children’s boutique that opened on Second Avenue North a couple years ago by Dale and Neil Budde. The store continued to operate through the use of curbside pickup and delivery service for customers.
And through the downtime the Buddes suddenly had, they were able to reach another level with their business.
“The upside for us is that the virus has forced us to put together an online store, something we have wanted to do since we opened two years ago but never had the time,” Dale Budde said. “But when you have to find the time, you find it.
“That’s been a great asset to our store, giving customers the ability to be able to shop in the evening or call us on the phone or go to our website with merchandise we have in our store. We’re not close to having everything in our store online. We probably have only 25% of it up, but it’s something.”
Marianne and Greg DeMeyers had a similar awakening with their Tin Cottage shop on Main Street, where they have offered curbside pickup and delivery of their merchandise during the shutdown, and also found time to enhance their online store.
“It’s funny how life can tell you, ‘I told you so,’” Marianne DeMeyers said. “We’ve been talking for about a year or two about making our online store more robust. We’ve been too busy or making an excuse of not having enough time. Then all of a sudden this kind of thing [virus outbreak] happens and you’re like, ‘OK, let’s sit down and create an online store.’ We went from having around 20 items to, like, 400 in a week. So we’ve been really, really fortunate.”
Of course, with Gov. Lee’s announcement last week that restaurants could reopen Monday and retailers do the same two days later, most store owners throughout downtown Franklin are likely eager to interact on a more personal level with their customers than through curbside, delivery and the internet. They’ll just have to do it under certain guidelines established by the Tennessee Pledge.
“The downtown Franklin retailers have been very quick to adapt during this stay-at-home situation, and they are adapting to the recent order that allows them to reopen,” said Jill Burgin, executive director of the Downtown Franklin Association.
“While they’ve all been ready to get back to business for a while now, some are taking extra time to be sure they’re complying with the health and safety guidelines and get their stores rearranged and extra supplies delivered. So some stores will be open on Wednesday, and others have announced later openings on Friday or even Monday, May 4.”
The owners of The Purple Cow are taking no chances. They’re waiting until Friday to open their door, and then by appointment only through Sunday. They’ll open for general shopping Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment from 3-5 p.m.
“We’ve taken it a step further,” Budde said, referring to state guidelines for reopening. “You have to have a mask on to come into my store. We purchased a sanitizing station where there will be hand sanitizer at the door and you have to use that. Not only are we protecting our customers, but I’m protecting myself and my husband.
“We’re not just saying, ‘Whoo-hoo, come on and shop and, gee, let’s hope none of us get sick.’ I’ve got to tell you, I’m not getting this virus.”
DeMeyers said the Tin Cottage is adhering to the governor’s guidelines and restrictions, but she has also taken time to think what the customers would want and what would reassure their safety.
“As a customer,” she explained, “what are you expecting when you walk in the door? That was something different than what the government was telling us we could do, couldn’t do, should do, recommend to do. But what are people expecting us to do? We read the protocols and the recommendations over and over. We’ve been in the midst of cleaning the store as much as we can.
“We are cautiously optimistic. We’re doing what we think is best for us, what we can do. … You just have to open your doors, keep your employees as safe as possible, make your store as safe as possible and see what next week is going to hold, next month, six months from now. This is all so fluid.”
Meanwhile, even though her Savory Spice Shop on Main Street is considered an essential business, Hollie Rollins decided to close her doors during the lockdown and offer only curbside and delivery. She is opening Wednesday, and said her customers are ready to descend.
“Customers are excited about getting out,” she said. “People have been going stir crazy.
“We’re kind of giddy. It almost feels like it did when we opened our doors on the first day. We’re ready, everybody’s trained, we all have our masks we’ll be wearing when people are in the store. We’re excited about it.
“I have a lot of faith in our customers to get down here and support small businesses. We are truly the backbone of the financial system right now.”