You're like Space Mountain in Disneyland! "A customer called out this summer after learning the popularity of the Sweet Shoppe candy store in downtown Flagstaff.
"I'm down to earth," said Jennifer Rolley, owner of Sweet Shoppe. "It's embarrassing. We have queues at the door every weekend!"
Lines in front of the door and garden tables in the street are clear signs that shops in Old Town Flagstaff are open and thriving. Shopkeepers say this has been since they reopened in late May after closings due to the pandemic.
“I think for our little shop people are tired of being in quarantine or in school. We're affordable, fast, and comfortable. People want that warm and hugging feeling they get when they bite into a caramel apple, homemade fudge, or creamy chocolate, ”said Rolley, who allows 12 customers at the same time in the candy store to enable social distancing.
Next door at Shoes and Such, the boutique owner Liz Bianco reports on the same trend. “A lot has been going on since we opened. We closed for about six weeks and when we opened we had immediate support from local customers. They said to us, "We're so glad you're open! We'll shop there and support you!" And we were incredibly grateful. There are people who don't need anything, but they come in and buy things just for us to support. "
In addition to the on-site support, Bianco has noticed the popularity of the road trip, as visitors from Phoenix and neighboring countries arrive. “I ask everyone where they are from and the overwhelming answer is that no matter where they are from, people are trying to shop in small stores and support the local economy wherever they are. People tell me that they really are are sad that many companies are closing. "
In order to accommodate customers who do not feel comfortable being with others, Bianco offers them time to shop on their own before or after regular opening hours.
Across the street, Babbitt's Backcountry Outfitters is also busier than ever. It was like this through the summer and now into the fall. “People really want to be outside. Our best-selling item when we reopened was hammocks! “Said owner Keith Harris. "My business is thriving and it feels like it's all downtown too."
"I bought a map of the US and the world because I wanted to mark where people are from," Harris said. “There wasn't a single brand internationally, but in the US I was just stunned to see how many people were here from all over the country. I
I think this is because children are home schooled and parents work from home. So why not take this rare opportunity to see the Grand Canyon? "
He also attributes much of the vitality of downtown COVID-19 to the partnership between the City of Flagstaff and the Downtown Business Alliance to create a trail on Aspen Ave. close between Leroux and San Francisco streets.
"With a right-of-way permit that the city issued to itself, we were able to close the southernmost lane of Aspen Ave. and the alley that runs north-south from Aspen," said Flagstaff Parks and Recreation Director Rebecca Sayers. "The Aspen Lane Closure provided a safe place for companies to extend outside under a right-of-way sub-permit to provide dining service, open seating and additional foot space, and to improve physical distancing."
"Having the outside space was super cool," said Bianco. "People hang out there and like that community feeling."
According to Sayers, the road will be closed for as long as the weather allows it in autumn and winter. It is planned to remove the road closure when snow accumulation is forecast to allow safe snow operations in the area.
The city is also working to help businesses expand outward by offering expedited review of inquiries and waiver of fees related to sidewalk cafes and temporary use permits.
"Businesses have provided positive feedback on these efforts, and the city looks forward to continuing to work with the Downtown Business Alliance and other partners across the community to provide safe places where everyone can stay responsible, play, detach and mask "said Sayers.
"The seats on the street are often full and I am so happy that the city moved so quickly that people are more comfortable," said Rolley. “Our guests have been so patient with the new policy of a limited number of employees. I also hear stories from customers about their story in our shop that I have never heard before. It feels like this unprecedented time brought forth the humanity of the people. “FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN