Franklin businesses slowly reopening with a ‘new normal’

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Main Street Coffee and Yogurt has remained open although the yogurt portion of the business has undergone some changes. photo by Vickie Carpenter

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

The Kitchen Sink on Main Street was deemed an essential business and has remained open through the pandemic. Extra precautions are in place to keep their customers safe. Photo by Vickie Carpenter

As the Town of Franklin and surrounding areas slowly reopen businesses, some new rules have been established as the “New Normal.”

Signs on doors of many retail shops ask residents to please wear a mask before entering the store. Hand sanitizer is usually available for customers to use and store owners are now adhering to social distancing guidelines and sanitizing ink pens and credit card terminals. 

Both retail shops and restaurants have been affected one way or the other by the pandemic. 

Restaurants open for dine in

The Normandie Restaurant has been open throughout the mandated closing of many stores but only through providing take out services. Now that the governor has eased restrictions the Normandie is still offering take out only.  Owner Steve Tallent explains why he is only offering take out when restaurants are now allowed to offer dine in services. 

“We have 11 booths and can only use five due to the social distancing guidelines still in place. Many of my customers are from church groups and other clubs and tend to come in as groups  to eat, relax and hold conservations with each other,” he said. “Since there is still the social distancing restriction I felt it best to continue to offer take out only,  rather than to have to ask folks to leave. We have been in business for 51 years and my customers mean a lot to me. When the time is right I will resume offering dine in services.” 

Steve’s parents Bull and Etta Tallent opened the restaurant in 1969 and now Steve runs that same operation today. He says his business is doing well with just take out orders, and he has been able to maintain his staff during this time.

Rockin Rollie Pollies Restaurant has also been offering curbside service since March, but has recently opened its dining room now that restrictions have been eased.  Owner Roland Mock said that everything is almost back to normal. He has done well offering take out only and now that his restaurant is offering dine in there are a few restrictions that he is adhering to. Every other table is skipped and he must cut back on the amount of people allowed in the restaurant at one time. Sanitizing each table and all the accompanying items that go with serving food is a never-ending task but business is good, he said. 

Retail shops are open with limited capacity

Retail businesses such as The Kitchen Sink have fared well during the restrictions.  Owners Brooke and Rob Reale explain. 

“We were not closed at all during the pandemic. We met three criteria in the governor’s order to stay open. Most businesses on Main Street could have remained open and been classified as essential; the first criteria point, was to be able to maintain a six-foot distance between customers and staff except for the point of checkout.

“We had a steady increase in sales by 25% in January, February and the beginning of March. Mid March and April dipped drastically and April was the worst sales month to date. If we had been forced to close, it would have been very bad… Each day that passed during the stay at home order, by the grace of God, we made enough for ‘that day’, He remained faithful.

“We are so grateful to those that came and supported us. Customers would intentionally come here instead of a big box store or chain to shop for what they needed, it was so humbling… It would be difficult, if not impossible to articulate what that means to us… We’ll just say a heartfelt thank you and reveal that after many completed transactions throughout this time, we’d just go in the back and hug each other with a tear or two escaping – I’m not gonna lie!

“In May, however, we had a comeback and resumed our 25% sales increase. We always want our customers to feel safe and know we care about their health and wellbeing when entering our store. We sanitize common surfaces, like the checkout space including pens and surrounding areas, after each customer. I offer to write ‘C-19’ (for COVID-19) in place of a signature on their slip if desired, so they don’t even have to touch a pen if they don’t want to. We’ve been a drop off and pick up site for homemade masks during the pandemic. We have two UVG/ Ozone gas lights we use regularly to sanitize the surfaces that are difficult or impossible to clean. We have proper signage and markings to alert and remind customers to keep at a distance. We just received our first shipment of over 100 personal spray sanitizers from a distillery in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. – for sale now in the store.

“We’ve (as a nation) never been through something like this before-ever. We feel it’s important to respect the choices others make; businesses and customers alike. The commonality is we’re all doing what we feel is best and have good intentions at heart. Our humanity is what unites us; having grace for one another is what keeps us civil, our love for each other is what matters the most.

“As for another round of COVID, the president has declared the country will not close again for this. I think we’ve learned a lot these past few months. The elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk; we need to make sure they’re protected and healthy with a plan in place before we move on to the rest of the lower risk community.

“We personally feel it does no good to live in fear. We all do the best we can with the information we are given and apply a hefty dose of common sense. We’ll continue taking the necessary precautions and implemented procedures we’ve adapted to keep our customers well, while offering the vast variety of kitchenware and friendly service they’re accustomed to,” she concluded.

The Art Room has not fared as well as other businesses. Owner Dianne MacLean explained that her business requires  groups of people to be together in her art classes, which were not able to be held during the restrictions. Even now that restrictions have eased, the classes are limited to three patrons as opposed to the six or eight that would normally participate in a class. MacLean explained that her worst month was April when her business was curbside and mail only. That is when she saw a decrease of revenue down to 20% from her usual sales. MacLean is still offering free Saturday classes but not many patrons have signed up for those classes. She continues to follow the social distancing guidelines and sanitizes thoroughly in the store. She also stated that she feels that 99% of her patrons are complying with the new guidelines when entering her store. 

A similar operation, The Dusty Pallet, also relies on classes of people taking part in art projects. At the present, owners Matt and Gwen Taylor state that they are still closed to do paint parties. 

 “The majority of our revenue is paint parties which has affected us tremendously,” said Gwen. “People are not spending money for items that are not a necessity to live.  It’s hard to invest in art when you have a family to feed and you have been out of work or are still out of work.  Although we are not open to paint as it is, we will survive.  We have  faith and God will sustain us through all of this. We have tremendous support from our community and they are as ready as we are to come back to paint.  We love our local folks and that is what we appreciate about  our town. It doesn’t seem right, since this is our livelihood, when we would take precautions for our customers, but people can go to the pools, etc., its ok. We will be doing private parties soon. Just keep watching us on Facebook.”

Doodlebugs  is a small gift shop run by Rick and Peggy Heinzen. The store features gift items, pottery and linens. Doodlebugs was closed  for six weeks due, but were able to reopen on May 8. 

“We are optimistic about the future. Revenues in May were better than expected,” said Rick.

Doodlebugs is also adhering to guidelines and takes precautions in sanitizing although they do not require patrons to wear masks.  Doodlebugs motto is “Find Your Happy Place.” 

 In this time of uncertainty finding a happy place seems like some good advice.

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