Retail shops open across the state Thursday

NILES — As flags waved bearing the word “OPEN” were set outside of antique and resale shops Thursday, cars and customers followed. Owners, workers and volunteers were back to a “new normal” since mandated shutdowns mid-March due to COVID-19 concerns.

As the mandate for appointment-only shopping was lifted to make way for walk-in customers in Michigan, Niles shop owners adjusted their operations to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. Masking tape Xs and asterisks on the ground near checkouts were seen in multiple shops, along with masks, hand sanitizer at check outs and posts about new cleaning procedures.

For downtown business Main Street Antique Mall, located at 109 E. Main St., owner Susie Fauver was very happy to have the doors opened again. As a customer checked out a purchase just a half an hour after opening, Fauver reflected on the past two and a half months of closure. Used to being open seven days a week for 16 years, Fauver was ready to come back to work.

“Everyone had plenty of knowledge,” Fauver said of new reopening procedures for the store. “We’re all kind of used to the masks by now.”

The Main Street Antique mall had a clear partition around the check out, providing a window for prices to be entered and payment to be exchanged. A table of tissue paper, different sized bags, hand sanitizer and gloves sat in front for customers to package their new items.

Around the corner at 218 N. Second St., Four Flags Antique Mall opened an hour after Fauver. Workers at the front counter said they were happy to be back to business as usual.

Shelf Life Community Book Store, at 223 N. Fourth St., opened its doors on Thursday as well.

A Facebook post from the store read that no more than 10 customers would be allowed into the store at a time, and hours were subject to change until business stabilizes.

Melody Conrad, volunteer at Shelf Life Community Bookstore, stands by one of the many shelves in the store. Conrad had an order prepared for pickup shortly after opening on Thursday, and was happy to be back in the shop. (Leader photo/CHRISTINA CLARK)

Shelf Life volunteer Melody Conrad was running the store at the noon opening.

“I was going stir crazy,” Conrad said of the time the shop was closed. “Everything I would have done in the free-time was closed as well.”

Though Conrad is happy to see the shop back open, there are some notable changes. Shelf Life, which usually hosts workshops and classes, has opted to put events on hold for the time being until COVID-19 precautions subside further.

As shops opened doors in downtown Niles, antique and resale shops south of downtown were bustling with business.

Becki Rolston, worker at The Market Place on 2428 S. 11th St., said the shop had seen quite a lot of people by midday. The Market Place opens at 10 a.m., and Rolston said several shoppers had been coming through as of 1 p.m.

“We’ve had a lot of purchases,” Rolston said. “People are tired of being cooped up.”

Joshua McClendon, who runs the JGaming booth inside of The Market Place, specializing in new and classic video games, was on-site.

“Each of the booths is a different business, essentially,” he said. “It’s nice that it’s a big enough space, and it’s become a happy place where people can interact safely.”

Joshua McClendon, owner of JGaming, and Becki Rolston, worker at The Market Place, stand at the front of the shop ready to help customers. The Market Place houses many booths for vendors, including JGaming, and saw business picking up as mandates relaxed on Thursday. (Leader photo/CHRISTINA CLARK)

At Michiana Antique Mall across the street at 2423 S. 11th St., eight cars occupied the parking lot. A sign greeted those entering that a mask would be required upon entry.

Even with the appointment shopping in place, Monday was a busy shopping day at the antique mall, according to assistant manager Debbie Vella.

“Everyone has been great,” Vella said.

Some of the noticeable changes inside the mall, aside from the masks, were a clear plastic sheet hanging at the checkout counter and the lack of community coffee that the shop usually offers.

The mall has face masks available inside for shoppers to purchase for $1. The money from the masks will go to Feed the Hungry, an organization from LeSEA Global that dedicates to feeding the poor and hungry internationally.

Closer to the Michigan state line, Picker’s Paradise Antique Mall, 2809 S. 11th St., was pleased to be open as usual. Nancy Brogdon worked the front counter, checking out a customer buying an antique tea set.

While appointment-only mandates were still in place over the weekend, the antique mall had seen an uptick in sales.

“Saturday was like a pre-coronavirus Saturday,” Brogdon said. “People aren’t afraid.”

On Thursday, shoppers and vendors were inside the mall back to shopping and conducting business.

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