Rutland businesses adjust to COVID-19 concerns

Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 12:31 AM EDT
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On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, people are typically wandering around in downtown Rutland. But on Wednesday, those shops that remain open were seeing few customers.

"If we panic, it's not going to work," said Ivan Rochan, the owner of Diamonds and More jewelry store. "So, just hold tight and that's why we're open today. We're not panicked, we're business as usual, we're cleaning and catching up on work that we got behind on."

At Diamonds and More, it's too early to see what kind of impact the coronavirus will have on business, but for Phoenix Books Rutland, Wednesday afternoon was the last day for shoppers to browse inside. Starting on Thursday, the bookstore will only take orders over the phone or online. Books will be given to customers at the door or shipped to their house for free.

"We have seen a decline. We've had pretty steady sales today, but nothing like what it's typically. And more phone orders for the last couple of days as well," said the store's Michele Farrington.

Local restaurant worker Michael Pratt was out picking up his second-to-last paycheck.

"It's kind of an anxious feeling, you know, not knowing when work is going to resume again for all of us in the service industry and with everything going on. It's a little bit scary," Pratt said.

Stephen Johnson was out getting a haircut but plans to hunker down with his wife.

"I've got a lot of stuff to do around the house. As long as we stay healthy, it's not that bad. But lord, I miss seeing my friends and everything that we do," Johnson said. "We're an active community, our community center is closed down now, everything is. I mean, this is a ghost town."

Many small business owners we spoke with downtown said this does have a very large impact on their business and will impact being able to pay for things month by month.

"I feel a little guilty being here because I know that it's recommended that everybody stay home," said Laurel Austin from La Salon. "If there's no work, there's no pay in this business, either."

La Salon on North Main Street caters primarily to people who are retired or live alone. They are wiping down everything between clients.

"But there's no way to stay six feet away from someone. My sister said, 'Oh, you need to wear gloves when you cut hair.' You can't wear gloves when you cut hair. You'll pull the hair out of the head," Austin said.

Most business owners say they are reassessing day by day, and hope that if they are forced to close, it will only be for a few weeks.

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