With all retail stores able to open state- and county-wide, Market Street looked a little bit more like itself on Saturday morning, with families walking up and down and browsing in shops.
The foot traffic can’t compare to this time last year, though, said Sumner Crenshaw, owner of The Muse. For a sunny day in late May, there just weren’t as many people out. And the sales can’t compare to last year’s, either.
But Crenshaw was still excited to open. She bought The Muse on March 6, just a couple of weeks before Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all non-essential businesses closed.
“Everybody just really came together to support the local shops, ours included,” Crenshaw said.
A few doors down, Hunting Creek Outfitters had quite a few shoppers before noon. The store also reopened on March 16, after County Executive Jan Gardner’s announcement allowing businesses with under 10,000 square feet of space to reopen. Partner Murray Friedman said business had been steady, but not comparable to the usual spring and summer months.
Friedman said he was glad to see customers maintaining their distance and wearing masks without any trouble. It does still feel odd, though, he said.
‘We also find it difficult to stay six feet apart and give great customer service, and those sort of things,” he said. “We’re constantly reminding ourselves and our customers.”
The store’s dog, Maizey, who regulars love to greet, is no longer allowed to be pet.
“That’s probably the biggest change,” he said.
Crenshaw had put a hand sanitizing station at the door so people could browse without feeling bad about touching things. The changes she made were easily outlined by the Downtown Frederick Partnership, she said.
Frederick County Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Weldon said many business owners had told him about how many resources they had available to them. The Downtown Frederick Partnership, in particular, had been offering their partners daily information as well as print-outs to put in their stores with information for customers.
“I think all that’s made this a little more effective because the information and the tools have been out there for a while,” Weldon said.
While he said many local business owners wish they could have opened sooner, they also have adapted quickly to the new guidelines.
Besides a six-foot distance rule, customers must wear a mask indoors. Friedman said that Hunting Creek Outfitters has been steaming any item of clothing that’s been tried on and then waiting 24 hours before putting it back out on the floor.
Julie Kennedy, manager of Creme de la Creme, said she had gotten a lot of information from the Downtown Frederick Partnership as well. The community has really rallied around the small businesses as well.
“It’s just incredible,” she said.
Restaurants are now allowed to offer outdoor-only dining, as well. Friedman hopes that will draw more people downtown, as he imagines most people’s trips to the city include shopping and then eating lunch or dinner.
“One fuels off the other,” he said.
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, asks Frederick residents to always consider buying or dining locally before they pursue other options. She also hopes people can be patient as businesses try to alter their services or begin to open up again.
“This is a time of tremendous change. And I think that we know that, but we may not think about it from the lens of small-business owners,” Norman said. “And these small-business owners have had to completely change their business model.”
As for when the local economy will return to normal and businesses will make up their lost revenues, nobody knows.
"I still think there's a lot of time ahead of us before businesses that have lost revenue feel like they're going to start to make it back again," Weldon said.