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Businesses close or cope with regulations

Businesses in Farmville were already significantly affected by state regulations put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s Executive Order 53, announced Monday, March 23, is impacting them further.

The order places temporary restrictions on restaurants and recreational, entertainment and non-essential retail businesses and gatherings along with closing all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year due to COVID-19.

Later in the order document, it is noted that recreational and entertainment businesses were ordered to close to all public access effective at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, until 11:59 p.m., Thursday, April 23.

Following are a few examples of businesses from around town that have been impacted in various ways by the executive order and the new restrictions overall.

A Great Escape Spalon Inc., located on East Third Street in Farmville, announced it was closing for a month in accordance with the governor’s order.

Co-Owner and Human Resources Manager Bridget Flannagan said the family-run business has never closed for this length of time before.

“Our clients and our community have always been to us as extensions of our family,” she said. “In light of this, we’ve been called to live our values and make some hard decisions.”

She noted the Spalon team had been watching the situation unfold and after certain developments occurred over the weekend, the owners came together Sunday, March 22, and decided voluntarily to shut down for two weeks, with the support of the employees.

“We work in a high-touch industry, and there is no way for us to maintain proper social distancing,” Flannagan said.

She stated that in order to protect their employees, their clients and their community, they felt this was the best course to take.

“When Gov. Northam announced Monday that all non-essential businesses were to close, we felt both a relief that we had made the correct decision and increased anxiety at the 30-day guideline,” she said. “Our finances were already stressed to the max at the idea of a two-week closure.

“The scariest thing for us all has been the what ifs and uncertainty, but we are finally seeing some details emerge,” she said.

Audrey Sullivan, owner of Red Door 104 on North Main Street, said her art business was already closed, but the governor’s order would have impacted it completely.

“We’re definitely not essential,” she said. “I closed sooner than most people, I think, because I work with a lot of children, and I have children that — some of them — go home to grandparents, and I just felt like it was really prudent for me to nip it in the bud quick.”

She teaches art classes to children and closed down March 13.

“I don’t have any plans at this point for when I reopen,” she said. “I’m just sort of, like everybody else, waiting to see what happens.”

Sullivan and her staff said they are trying to think outside the box on how they can still serve the community.

“I’m posting (on Facebook), every day, art projects for kids to do at home with things that I assume that they already own, supplies — because that’s an issue,” she said. “I’m trying to think of a way maybe to have an online auction, because I have 25 artists in my gallery that probably could use some money. So, I’m trying to think of a way to do that. I’m sure there is one.”

Robert Russa Moton Museum Managing Director Cameron Patterson said the museum had already announced prior to the executive order that it would be closed to the public, but the order affects how long that closure will last.

“We had already closed to the public, canceled events and facility rentals,” he said. “At first, we had done that through the 28th of March, but now that has become indefinite until other guidance from the (Virginia) Department of Health and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC is offered.”

He noted that museum staff will be continuing to work to provide educational resources during this time.

Bowling alleys were listed in the executive order as businesses that must close to the public. Main St. Lanes, located on South Main Street, has been closed since March 17 based on the governor’s request for restaurants and bars to adhere to the order of allowing no more than 10 customers at a time. The alley has licenses to sell food and alcohol, putting it in that category.

But Main St. Lanes Owner Dave Carmichael said the executive order gave a timeframe to the closure.

“We have never been closed for more than a day or two at any one time,” Carmichael said. “We  have done renovations in the past, but they were structured to allow us to keep operating on a daily basis. Our only other closures were due to weather-related scenarios or being closed on Christmas.”

He said Main St. Lanes will be closed until the governor removes the order forcing the closure of all bowling alleys in the state.

“We will open back up as soon as possible once that restriction is removed,” he said. “We are looking into all government programs being offered to small businesses in the hope we will be able to keep some of our staff working throughout the shutdown. We will spend a great deal of time during the coming weeks planning for the future to make sure Main St. Lanes comes back stronger than ever and can provide the community with a much-needed source of fun and entertainment.”

Rochette’s Florist, located on South Virginia Street, remains open.

“The governor’s orders, that hasn’t necessarily impacted us so much because I think we’re allowed to continue to do business,” General Manager and Co-Owner Sid Allen said. “We haven’t been mandated to shut down, but we have no business. We have no sales.”

He said the business had four deliveries Tuesday, March 24.

“Right now, I’m looking at the computer, and deliveries pending and pickups pending, all that is zero,” he said Wednesday, March 25. “We’ve got nothing for today.”

Ordinarily the florist shop averages 20 deliveries or so a day, he noted.

Allen said the business is taking precautions with regard to walk-in customers and deliveries to protect both the customers and staff from potential infection.

“We’re behaving as though we are infected,” he said. “We don’t know who is and who isn’t, so the best thing we’re doing is just to pretend like we are.”