The first week COVID-19 Phase II in Marin began with an air of uncertainty and excitement as retail stores ramped up with the expectation of a surge of customers. But the new rules will still make for a different buying experience at brick-and-mortar stores and malls.
Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly announced “storefronts are opening as we move forward with Phase II, sequential reopening, of the Marin Recovery Plan.” As a new shelter-in-place order went into effect on Monday, May 18, Marin shoppers found more opportunities for curbside retail shopping.
Marin County officials followed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lead to allow specific types of retailers to reopen on May 18, including book stores, clothing stores, florists and sporting goods — all deemed non-essential and forced to close their doors for nearly 10 weeks during the pandemic..
The new relaxed rules are a potential step toward a full reopening, but for now, the doors for most retail stores are not being thrown wide open and restaurants are still not yet allowed to offer dine-in service. So, to-go orders and pickup service are still the way to go.
“We anticipate a gradual reopening of the stores and services at Town Center as all retail stores and services adjust to the new health and safety requirements. Online and FaceTime shopping combined with the new curbside pickup will allow retailers including Columbine Home, REI, The Bazaar and soon The Container Store to safely re-engage with customers. Each week, you will see more stores opening,“ said Monty Stephens, General Manager of Town Center Corte Madera.
The Town Center Corte Madera expanded space for curbside pickup and to-go orders by setting aside parking areas for customers, so that they could maintain physical distance.
Some businesses at the Town Center were already open for curbside pickup for orders placed online, including Barnes & Noble, and restaurants World Wrapps and Pig in a Pickle. The Town Center has seen traffic at essential businesses, including Safeway, Rite Aid, Chevron Gas, JP Chase Bank, T-Mobile and JustFoodForDogs. The shopping center also continues to offer a home for the Wednesday farmer’s market in the parking lot.
Shopping centers in Marin, including Town Center, The Village and Northgate have been largely empty during the past few weeks, except for essential shopping. Vintage Oaks in Novato has been quiet, except for the overflow traffic surrounding Costco.
“Everyone at this point is standing their ground and holding out hope,” said Kris Vesely, Senior Manager of Tenant Coordination for The Village in Corte Madera. “We’re looking forward to seeing construction again at Restoration Hardware, and to seeing stores reopen eventually.”
Just over the grade, businesses in San Rafael were preparing for action on Monday, following the direction of Marin Recovers, the county agency tasked with creating guidelines for Marin’s path through the COVID 19 sheltering orders. The San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and Department of Public Works were working together to set aside two parking spaces per block for retailers to use for curbside pick-up.
|As businesses are allowed to open, they will need to create and post a specific COVID-19 protection plan to comply with state and local health policies. The plan will need to include accommodations for social distancing requirements, disinfectant protocols, and employee training for the new reopening conditions. More details can be found at www.marinrecovers.com.|
Marin Recovers offered the following best practices for curbside retailers:
- The curbside or walk-up transaction will occur outside the building, such as in the doorway or through an exterior window. Customers will not enter the premises of the store at any time.
- Curbside pick-up/delivery access points are clearly designated and marked and meet the criteria established by the local jurisdiction to do so.
- Clothing items may not be handled or tried on during curbside transactions.
- Merchandise may not be displayed on the sidewalk or outside of the building.
- Number of customers waiting in line for curbside pickup at any one time will be limited to allow for customers and employees to easily maintain at least six foot distance from one another and allows sufficient sidewalk space to allow safe pedestrian right-of-way at all times.
Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis said, “Everyone is interested in forecasting the future, but we’re not always in the driver’s seat. We’re really making our best effort to move forward safely. We haven’t seen any surges since we made the previous changes.”
County health officials will be watching closely to see if the incidents of COVID-19 increase during the next few weeks.
Newsom said additional safety practices for retailers to open for curbside pickup only include vigilant social distancing between customers and employees; installation of hands-free devices such as contactless payment processing; extensive availability of hand sanitizer; all parties involved wearing masks; and employees wearing gloves when handing off products during curbside pickup.
“This is a very positive sign and it has happened for only one reason: the data says it can happen,” Newsom said. “But we recognize as we begin to modify … possible community spread will occur. If that is the case, and we don’t have the capacity to control that spread, to track that spread, to isolate individuals that may have been in contact with COVID-19, we will have to make modifications anew.”