Earlier this spring, retailers reminded customer they still were available via online.
Earlier this spring, retailers reminded customer they still were available via online.

   Dawn Hart of Hart Mercantile hoped against hope that, maybe in a couple of weeks, shoppers would be allowed to re-enter her store at 206 Watson St.

   So when Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced today around noon that the state would allow retail stores to re-open, albeit with certain restrictions?

   “Totally shocked in a great way, and excited,” Hart said.

   As of today, she and others may open their doors for the first time in two months.

   Specifically, the Emergency Order #36 states that “Standalone or strip mall-based retail stores with an entrance or entrances to the outside may offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time.”

   The order also notes that:

  • Face coverings are strongly encouraged for all staff and customers.
  • Social distancing requirements must be observed at all times.
  • If the retail store is unable for any reason to observe social distancing requirements between all customers and staff, the store must limit its occupancy to less than five customers to ensure observance with social distancing requirements.

   Even with such restrictions, retailers see this as a positive development.

   “I'm super excited for all the retail owners downtown,” said Yvonne Baumgartner, owner of Dig Garden Store & More at 218 Watson St. “Everyone is looking forward to see[ing] all our customers. It will be important for us to do business in a safe environment, but I know I couldn't be more happy to have all the other stores on Watson Street reopen.”

   Jason Mansmith, executive director of the Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce, was excited to learn of this development.

   “Obviously we’re excited to hear about the chance for people to come back into the stores, albeit in a different way of doing it,” he said. “I think this is the news that some of our retails and businesses have been wanting to hear for a long time. There are still some guidelines that need to be followed, but as long as they abide by that I think it’s a good thing for everybody.”

   The chamber quickly sent out a note to inform its members of this change in state requirements and called a few others.

   “We’ve touched base with a few of them already … Obviously they’re ready to get moving and move forward,” Mansmith said, noting that no concerns have surfaced thus far.

   Hart, for one, is excited to have the chance to reopen.

   “We’re going to open on Thursday and go back to our normal hours. I can’t wait to see people,” she said, adding that she and her husband have been preparing for the day they could reopen for some time, in terms of adding safety measures. “I’m ready for it. I’ve been stocking up on hand sanitizer, and we put up a sneeze guard.

   “This is great news.”