Nonessential Businesses Start to Reopen

Phone orders, curbside deliveries, window shopping as store owners enter first phase of reopening

Nonessential businesses followed Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening guidelines Monday after a two-month COVID-19 shutdown. Businesses like Alex Pittan’s smoke shop in Englewood can now offer curbside delivery of online and phone orders.

“They’ll call when they’re here and we’ll just put it together and bring it out front,” Pittan said. “You know, you can only go so long as a business being closed. Everyone still has their bills. You’ve still got rent to pay.”

Gito Alvarez, owner of a boutique in Englwood, said that he will take credit card numbers and deliver outfits curbside. “I’m hopeful that our customers, our loyal customers that have been with us for 30 years, they’re going to return,” Alvarez said.

At Pumpkin and Bean, a kids clothing shop, owner Claire Bader offers actual window shopping. “People driving up and looking in the window there and I can show them a few options and they can shop through a window,” said Bader. “People need to see, feel, touch, try on. It’s devastating.”

In Hackensack, Eddie Decker owns Musically Yours, which caters to DJs and those who need sound systems. Even with a guarded reopening, his phone is not ringing off the hook.

“We’ve virtually been shut down by the nature of what’s happening right now,” Decker said. “There’s no DJs going to weddings, there’s no bands doing festivals. And even more importantly is that backyard celebrations are dead. There’s no graduation celebrations.”

Murphy gives more specifics

Hackensack’s Main Street Alliance has been urging Murphy to offer a clear plan with specifics. It’s something the governor offered at his daily press conference on Monday.

“It’s unbelievable how many of these businesses are so concerned that they’re not going to make it through this,” Alliance chair Bryan Hekemian said. “What the policies are going to be for opening so they can get their PPE, so they can be prepared to open and be organized to open in accordance with state guidelines.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to work with our merchants and our property owners to see everybody through this successfully to the other side,” said Alliance executive director Patrice Foresman.

‘Quarantine fatigue’

Meanwhile, crowds flocked to a reopened Shore over the weekend. In places like Seaside Heights and Ocean City, time-lapse webcam video shows packed boardwalks. Drone video follows a line of people waiting to buy Belmar beach tags. One epidemiologist called it “quarantine fatigue.”

“People weren’t distancing, and not surprisingly, because it was warm, weren’t wearing masks,” said Stefanie Silvestri, professor of public health at Montclair State University. “You know, I saw people gathering as if the virus was gone or the virus never happened. And I think the concern is that we’re going to see an uptick.”

Credit: NJTV News
Seaside Heights at the weekend

“It’s like trying to hold the ocean back. The people are cooped up, they want to get out, they want to come down to the boardwalk,” said Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer.

Monmouth County officials called a news conference to emphasize that they’re building a website listing safety rules and policing the beaches.

“People can be outside. If people do things right, they can social-distance away from each other, be with their family members and be outside and get fresh air. It’s been a tough time, economically, health and safety-wise and mentally,” said Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone.

But some protesters worried about reopening the Shore too soon.

“The focus on continued profits, rather than the safety of year-round residents, most especially,” is a concern, said Belmar resident Alexis Finch.

There’s a lag time after infections; it could be up to three weeks for the worst COVID-19 symptoms to show up. So we won’t know the impact of what’s happening today until mid-June.

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