Stores in Idaho have, for the most part, reopened since statewide closures to slow the spread of coronavirus were lifted last month. But a shopping trip to one of the Wood River Valley’s favorite stores still may not look exactly as it did pre-pandemic.
A number of the valley’s winning shops have instituted new safety and hygiene protocol for customers, from requiring masks to limiting the number of customers in a store at any given time.
At Thunderpaws Pet Shoppe—voted Best Pet Store in the valley—shoppers are required to wear a mask to come inside.
“We’ve gotten a little pushback, but it just feels like the right thing to do,” said Dain Hamilton, who owns the store with his wife, Victoria. “We’d much rather it end up being an unnecessary restriction that we over-enforced and everybody was fine than go the other way and end up losing our loved ones throughout the valley.”
The store is also offering free home delivery and curbside pickup in light of the pandemic. Curbside pickup remains a fairly popular option for customers, Hamilton said, though the store doesn’t get many calls for home delivery.
For customers who do come inside the store, ThunderPaws would ask that they wash their hands before entering, Hamilton said. There is also hand sanitizer available inside the store.
Backwoods Mountain Sports, which was named Best Outdoor Gear Shop, is also maintaining strict sanitation and social distancing protocol.
“Basically, we’ve stuck to our guns through this whole thing,” managing partner Paddy McIlvoy said.
A mask is required for customers who physically come into the store, though “if people don’t have a mask we’ve made it really clear that we’re more than happy to bring stuff to them outside,” McIlvoy said. Hand sanitizer stations are positioned at the front door, and staff reserve the right to limit the number of customers inside the store at any given time.
“We’re basically sticking with that rule until there’s a vaccine, is the decision we’ve made,” McIlvoy said. “We feel it’s important for the health and safety of our community.”
Customers are allowed to try clothes on as usual, McIlvoy said. But clothes that are tried on and ultimately not bought are put on a dedicated rack outside the store for several days before they’re brought back inside and put back on the shelf.
When it comes time to pay for purchases, Backwoods is encouraging customers to use a credit card instead of cash, in an attempt to cut down on germs being exchanged via money. Six-foot spacing is marked for people waiting in line at the register.
Red Door—which tied with Top Notch for the title of Best Furniture/Home Décor Store—is also asking customers to wear a mask and offering sanitizer at the door, owner Marina Broschofsky said.
In a furniture store, customers need to be able to sit on and touch furniture they’re interested in buying. That’s where the hand sanitizer comes in, Broschofsky said.
“We’re noticing that people are asking to [sit on furniture] before they do, which is pretty nice,” Broschofsky said. “And we haven’t seen as many people sitting on the furniture as we used to.”
Trying out—and touching—a product before buying is also largely unavoidable while shopping for shoes. At Ozzie’s Shoes, named Best Shoe Store, shoes that have been tried on but not purchased are sanitized, owner Steve Carlson said. The store itself is also sanitized nightly.
Ozzie’s customers are encouraged to wear a mask, though a mask isn’t mandatory to enter the store, Carlson said.
At Silver Creek Outfitters, named Best Men’s Clothing Store, masks are required for shoppers. Masks will be provided to customers who don’t have one, owner Terry Ring said. Shoppers are asked to use hand sanitizer provided by the store before entering and to adhere to social distancing whenever possible. Like other local stores, Silver Creek is offering curbside pickup and local delivery to customers who do not want to come inside.
As customers slowly adjust to the new normal of shopping in a pandemic, enforcing safety requirements has become easier at Backwoods, McIlvoy said.
“The first couple of weeks there was a lot of playing policeman with people who just were not happy with having rules to follow,” McIlvoy said. “It seems like for the most part now, it’s become a regular part of life.
“We’re very grateful for our customers coming back and working with us,” he added. “We’re super psyched to be part of this community.”