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Retailers open for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday with precautions

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Meyers Fashions Etc. owner Ellen Gould, left, shows customer Cathy Moore, right, a winter coat on Tuesday at the business in downtown Alpena.

ALPENA — Alpena’s small businesses are ready for the holiday shopping season, despite this year’s Black Friday and Small Business Saturday taking place amid a pandemic.

With the coronavirus resurging — more than twice as many Northeast Michiganders have been infected so far in November than in the previous six months combined — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has imposed new restrictions, including banning indoor dining and limiting crowd sizes.

However, retail businesses remain open, restaurants can still offer takeout, and Alpena Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Anne Gentry still encourages people to shop downtown this weekend.

Retailers “are offering in-person shopping and they all have been doing a great job of keeping their customers safe and healthy,” Gentry said. “All of them are requiring masks to be worn, all of them are disinfecting regularly and limiting how many people are in their store.”

In an attempt to shrink the traditional stampede of Black Friday shoppers, big box stores — including the Walmart and Meijer in Alpena — have spread Black Friday deals throughout the month, encouraged online shopping, and more.

Photo with hoodie News Photo by Crystal Nelson Customer Cathy Moore, left, talks with Meyers Fashions Etc. owner Ellen Gold, right, at the business in downtown Alpena.

In the stores — the Alpena Walmart opens at 5 a.m. today, the Alpena Meijer at 6 a.m. — mask-wearing is required and employees perform extra cleaning.

For Black Friday and Small Business Saturday — the day after Black Friday on which consumers are encouraged to shop local — Alpena’s small businesses are taking extra precautions, too.

Meyers Fashions Ect. owner Ellen Gould said the business reopened on Monday after being temporarily closed for two weeks following a COVID-19 exposure. Gould said employees are being very careful inside the store and are making the business as safe as possible.

“We’re requiring masks, we steam all the merchandise after it has been tried on, we wipe down all the fitting rooms after each use — everybody gets a fresh fitting room,” she said.

Gould said she is optimistic about the holiday weekend and says people will turn up to shop as long as they can shop safely.

“I just want to encourage people to shop locally this year,” she said. “Of course, we’d love to have them shop with us, but please keep your dollars in Alpena this year. It’s more important than ever.”

Gentry said the pandemic has forced businesses to adapt and businesses now offer products online for those who do not want to shop in person.

Laura Shearer, owner of Rusty Petunias Marketplace in downtown Alpena, said customers will be able to shop in person or online this weekend, but the store will also accommodate customers with curbside pickup and delivery.

Shearer said the store will also do virtual shopping tours for those who cannot wear masks. She said the virtual shopping tours started when the business was closed during the first coronavirus shutdown in March, and she’s never stopped using them.

For those who plan to shop in person, Shearer said the store will close one of its doors so there’s only one entrance and will limit the number of customers allowed inside at one time. She said masks will be mandatory.

Gentry said summer was an OK season for businesses downtown, but wasn’t wonderful, by any means.

Headed into the fall, she said it’s uncertain how the year will finish up.

However, Gentry said Alpena is fortunate that none of the downtown businesses have had to close their doors over the last few months. She said small businesses, such as those in downtown Alpena, are the center of the community and give Alpena its local identity.

“It’s really important to make the decision of the type of community you want with how you spend your money,” she said. “If we didn’t have businesses, small businesses in our downtown, we would just have empty buildings, which certainly no one wants.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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