Vermont nonessential retailers reopen after 2-month pause

Published: May. 18, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT
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Retailers across Vermont opened their doors again to customers Monday, the first day the state has allowed in-person, nonessential commerce since March.

"Open" signs took on extra meaning Monday as Burlington-area businesses welcomed customers back inside.

"It's exciting to be back," said Isabel Salcedo with the Whim Boutique on Church Street.

The reopening comes with strict state guidelines. Shops must limit traffic to 25% of legal capacity and encourage visitors to wear masks.

We spotted some shoppers with bags, but not many. "I wouldn't say there is a lot of disposable income anywhere," said shopper

Gretchen Jones of South Burlington.

"When they said they were going to open, I said who's going to come?" said Holly Feingold of Burlington

At the UMall in South Burlington, only stores with outside access hosted customers.

"Grabbing what I need and getting certain things I couldn't before," said Gary Pasquale of Burlington.

Normal has a new look -- smaller stores like Whim Boutique can only have three people inside at a time, including employees. They hope to use that to their advantage. "To make it a personal shopping experience in a sense," Salcedo said.

But uncertainty looms for many stores. "We are hoping for the best," said Kate Hayes with Ecco Clothes on Church Street.

Signs read "Welcome back, we missed you" on stores like Frog Hollow. They say they will be opening up the Church Street gallery on Friday under the new guidelines. But other merchants we spoke to say they are waiting for more traffic and less restrictions before they can open up.

Ecco's Kate Hayes says they hope that as neighboring businesses open, it will lift everyone's fortunes. "We are expecting that when that happens, we will get out normal customers back," she said.

And customers - doing their part to help stores survive. "It was nice being able to walk around and shop a little bit," Pasquale said.

"It's early yet. I'm hoping more people come," Feingold said.

During the mayor's media briefing Monday, the director of the Church Street Marketplace spoke about how the city can help retailers downtown, including creating designated grab and go parking spaces, streamlining the permit process for retailers and restaurants to use more sidewalk space, and even the possibility of shutting down streets to car traffic to add more outdoor seating for restaurants.

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