Warm weather and an easing of COVID-19 restrictions have shoppers happy to be back out in the world this week.
“I feel free, much happier and they have a great sale too — half off of everything,” Madison Phillips said outside of the Salvation Army in Dunkirk on Friday.
“It’s good and exciting to be out again,” her friend Alexis Saar added. “I feel normal.”
The Western New York region, which includes Chautauqua County, entered Phase Two on Tuesday. That allowed retail shops, among other businesses, to reopen to customers with certain guidelines in place.
“It’s been hard not being able to just go and do what you want,” Monica Smith stated. “It feels good to see life returning to normal once more.”
Elsewhere, many returned to the Salvation Army Family store in West Ellicott on Thursday to take advantage of discounted prices.
“It feels wonderful,” Karrie Wetzstein said.
“I have a small business too, a Pizza Express, so I know (how important it is). I’m happy, just happy that everything else is about to open up too.”
Wetzstein did not have anything particular on her shopping list.
“Just browsing, it has been a while,” she said. Not only does the Phase Two reopening help to raise public morale, it also gives small businesses and shops a chance to earn income after weeks of forced closings.
“The Salvation Army, this benefits many people locally which is always a good thing for the community,” Fred Privitere said. “I just came here because the store is open and it’s a sunny day, and it’s something to do. It’s nice to feel that finally the restrictions are starting to be less and we’re getting our freedom back. The weather is nice and it’s just nice to be outside enjoying the good temperatures and seeing people again.”
During earlier parts of the COVID-19 shutdown, some retail businesses had made the switch to online ordering or curbside service. That transition had different levels of success for different business models.
“This is obviously a different way for these businesses to operate than they have traditionally, but it’s also an opportunity to try out a new methodology to deliver a product to the consumer,” said Todd Tranum, CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s a little early on to fully understand how that may work with some of our local businesses. But they are creative, they’ll figure it out.”
With retailers opening their doors once more, the economic impact should be significant.
“Small businesses are an important part of our community fabric,” Tranum said. “This is an opportunity to start get some revenue flowing in, start meeting local consumer needs.”