Local retailers in Westport talk first day of reopening

WESTPORT — The first day of retail reopening in town went smoothly with many owners saying they were excited to see familiar faces.

Dave Wright, owner of Fleet Feet, said upon opening his store at 10 a.m. Wednesday, there was a steady stream of customers, some new and some old friends.

“There’s been a lot of appointments,” Wright said. “People have been taking advantage of our new appointment procedures.”

Two of the main changes he put in place to comply with the state’s health protocols were a new fitting process and scheduling staff. Wright said there will be two to three fitters at any one time to assist customers.

“It’s so nice to be able to talk to different people,” Wright said. “Now, everybody’s getting a chance to see the community. It’s refreshing to be back to almost normal. It’s not quite normal, but it is nice to see and talk to everybody.”

Mike Logan, at New England Hemp Farm, shared similar sentiments.

“I know for our staff here, we were all psyched to get back in the shop,” Logan said.

The store has made changes to accommodate customers including limiting the number of people inside and sanitizing products throughout the day.

“We’re trying to keep it safe so people feel comfortable coming in,” Logan said.

While some retailers were open and ready to go others remained closed.

Annette Norton, owner of Savvy + Grace, said although her store remains closed she hopes to open in the coming weeks.

“I felt it would be prudent of me to wait another couple weeks after other people opened to see what the numbers showed,” Norton said of her decision.

Since the closure of her store in March, she said she has made a move toward online services.

“I always wanted to stay old school and be a brick and mortar store,” she said. “It’s made me get into something I never even saw.”

Despite her decision to remain closed, she said she understood other retailers who did the opposite.

“I totally understand why people are opening. I can’t wait until I can reopen,” Norton said. “It’s just that I feel like two more weeks is a better choice for me.”

She said she thinks one of the positives that may come out of the pandemic is a renewed focus on local shops. Norton said since closing and moving online, she’s had customers shopping with her who never had before.

“It’s easy to take Main Street for granted. It’s easy to take your local shops for granted, but I don’t think people are taking them for granted any more. I think they’re appreciating them,” Norton said.

Allison Gurley, manager of Bungalow, said the importance of local businesses has been shown through the pandemic.

“Some people are afraid to go into a big box store,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the personal aspect of it, but I think people are really looking to shop local with small businesses.”

Gurley said at Bungalow, a lot of the clients have become like friends and upon reopening they’ve already seen some familiar faces.

“It’s a huge thing because we want to make sure our customers are healthy and doing well,” she said.

Catherine Hiriart, owner of Catherine H, said people are understandably still being cautious. She said customers can make appointments to have the store to themselves when they shop.

“Obviously, we won’t have as much foot traffic working this way, but I think it’s for the safety of everyone,” Hiriart said.

She said while things make not be back to normal, allowing customers some form of shopping experience is important.

“Just the fact of seeing someone and being outside — I think it’s positive,” she said. “If everyone is mindful of the distance and follows the protocol, we should be okay.”