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The little antique store (in Wisconsin) where we have our booth finally opened for business with reduced hours. Because many of the working dealers (there are no paid employees) are elderly, they have chosen to give up their workdays. This reduces the number of dealers available. A couple of dealers who are willing to work and are taking shifts for others, have demanded that everyone, worker and customers, wear masks in the store. My husband and I worked yesterday and it became immediately obvious that we were only there to turn customers away. The first customer wore a mask, so we pulled up our ‘cattle-rustler’ bandanas and made the sale. The next six customers did not have masks and we had to tell them they could not enter. A car pulled up, people started to get out, they read the Masks Required sign on the door, got back in the car, and drove away.
Antiques is a highly word-of-mouth dependent business. Since we felt it would have been more profitable to turn out the lights and go home, I called the owner and explained the situation. She agreed that from her perspective, masks could be optional. But because of the workers who refused to work without the requirement, she would not have enough staff to open the doors. (Not sure what the difference would be if you are turning them away at the door.) So after a little dust-up, citing the viability of the business, and stating that we were fine with no masks, she allowed us to take the signs down. Ninety-five percent of the customers who came in after that did not have masks (I kept track). No one made a point of socially distancing. There were plexiglass guards and we cleaned counters, etc regularly during the day. We did a fair amount of business in the six hours we were open, and many people told us how nice it was to just get out of the house.
We then went to the small downtown to pick up dinner. Yikes! There wasn’t a parking place to be found – all the restaurants and bars (and this is Wisconsin, lots of bars), were packed, with people outside waiting or eating/enjoying their beer outside. People were milling around the riverside park. Social distancing? You’ve got to be kidding; piles of people going about their Saturday night ‘let’s have a night out’ rituals. All ages, including children; not a mask to be seen. It looked ‘old normal.’
While I understand that there are certain groups of people who need to take extra care, and they should, businesses that have just endured a shut-down will need to make arrangements to reflect the ‘released from prison’ mentality of the population. The antique store owner was taking a poll of all the dealers to see what the mask policy should be in the future. If she continues to require masks (to some undetermined point in the future), we may need to find another location if we expect our little hobby business to remain viable.Published in