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Arizona gets ready to reopen, one small business at a time

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 22:00:47-04

TEMPE, AZ — Across the state, businesses are preparing to reopen. It's a hectic time of new rules and training for a pandemic world. Cleanliness, distance, safety and no guarantees anyone will come out and patronize a store or restaurant.

"This is going to be fazed in, we've heard that loud and clear," says Thomas Barr, executive director of Local First Arizona. "We can't predict the month before these establishments are full again. This is going to be a slow process."

At Tempe Yarn and Fiber, being on the phone with a customer who is looking through the store window is one way business is being done.

The family-owned and operated store has been in business for 14 years.
The last two months the most challenging of times.

"Every sale counts, so we had to adjust and make do with what we can to keep everybody safe and yet try to stay alive and stay open," Store Manager Amanda Neal said.

With help from Local First Arizona, the store has expanded its footprint. Going to online sales and even virtual shopping.

"We would walk them around and help them pick yarn as we were on the phone with them. So that turned out pretty good," Neal said.

Local First has been busy helping more than 3,500 small businesses across the state prepare for reopening.

"We don't know how customers are going to respond to the steps business are taking right now."

Barr says it is important for those businesses to be prepared. Signage on the floor on keeping a safe distance, glass or plastic dividers on counters, rules about who handles the food and who takes the check and of course masks and gloves to protect workers.

"I don't think it's going to be a mad rush," Barr said, "I think people are going to wait and see."

At Tempe Yarn and Fiber, Amanda Neal says she will just be glad to open her doors and let customers in, even if it will only be one at a time.

"We're going to be wearing masks ourselves to keep our staff safe," Neal says. "We're going to be limiting the customers to just one in the store first, and then we'll gradually let more in as things progress."