Retail shops adjust to the new normal while customers begin trickling inside stores

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Over the past couple of weeks, retail businesses across the state have slowly started to open their doors back up and let customers inside.

It felt a little more like a normal Saturday in downtown Little Rock with many customers going in and out of stores shopping. 

Brandy McNair, owner of Bella Vita Jewelry, said everyone is optimistic but playing it safe. 

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“While we’ve managed to stay busy working on special products and pivoting and adapting to the newness, it’s really exciting to see our friends we haven’t seen in two months,” she said. 

Local retail shops in downtown Little Rock, like Bella Vita Jewelry and Fringe Clothing, were getting by with online and curbside owners. 

Kendall Sandifer, owner of Fringe Clothing, said it gave her time to finally focus on another side of her business. 

“This pandemic has been awful and it’s been terrible being closed for two months, but we have really found light in it, focusing on our online website,” she said. 

While Arkansas slowly moved into “Phase One” of reopening and Gov. Hutchinson began to lift restrictions, McNair and Sandifer were both ready to open their doors Friday, May 8, with new rules in place. 

“We limit the number of people in the store, everyone has to wear masks, we’re providing gloves and hand sanitizer and requiring that too,” McNair said. 

“Cleaning, steaming, Lysol, hand sanitizer, and face masks,” Sandifer said. 

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Having these restrictions is why shoppers, like Zoharie Rivera, felt comfortable spending their Saturday afternoon browsing inside stores. 

“It’s definitely a lot safer to go out because everybody is more aware of what’s going on,” she said. 

While other customers said they were anxious to get out, but were being careful about where they went. 

Both Sandifer and McNair noticing the need for shoppers to just be outside of their homes. 

“People are excited to get out and people are very cautious, too,” Sandifer said. 

“People are desperate to get out and they are really wanting to shop,” McNair said. 

Even though things may look a little different inside, Sandifer said there are silver-linings all around. 

“That’s the one huge blessing through the pandemic, I feel like it’s drawn so much attention to local business,” she said. 

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Both business owners said they were happy to see their regulars walk back through their doors and will continue to take these safety precautions. 

Sandifer and McNair said the last couple of weeks have been slow and steady with people trickling inside, but most of their sales right now are still coming from online and curbside.