As part of Chester County’s ongoing efforts to support businesses through the reopening process and beyond, the COVID-19 Business Task Force asked local business owners from 20 industries to share their personal stories on RestoreChesterCounty.org. Jason Hafer, of the Phoenixville bookstore Reads & Company, shares his perspective:
Restore Chester County: What was your biggest challenge when it came to reopening?
Jason Hafer, Reads & Company: It sounds pretty basic, but knowing what and when to do things. Logistical things like where do we get enough hand sanitizer and other supplies to make sure we have what we need, but also the greater public health. At what point is it okay to welcome our customers back to the store, and what are all the things we need to do to keep them safe? Our business is really designed for crowds – whether that means packing the store for an author event, increased foot traffic during Phoenixville’s festivals and First Fridays, or working with other businesses like the Colonial Theatre or Bistro on Bridge on events that could only happen in a tight-knit business community. We don’t anticipate going back to these sorts of crowd-based things anytime soon, but we are looking at the big picture. And in the short term, the timing and steps we need to go from having our door locked to being open again (curbside, appointments, social distancing) is a very real challenge.
Restore Chester County: What gives you hope for restoring your business?
Hafer: The response from our community has been incredible over the past months. We’ve only been open for about a year, so all of our models and projections haven’t really had time to come into focus, pandemic aside, but what we have seen from our customers has been truly incredible. We receive multiple messages every day from people asking how they can best support us and if there is anything they can do to help. That means a lot, because this is an uncertain time for everyone, and the fact that people take the time to reach out to us gives us a tremendous amount of hope. People are choosing to order from us online, where they have other choices. We modified our event schedule and moved it online, and hundreds of people are attending our virtual sessions. Which is really important – selling books is a very small part of what a bookstore actually does, kind of the end result of building community, curating a great inventory and providing an opportunity for people to convene and interact with each other. We’ve always put those things first, and people have responded.
Restore Chester County: How will the resources Chester County is offering support you and your business?
Hafer: These resources and guidance are very important. At a state or national level, all politics aside, it is difficult to provide guidance that is right for everyone. So, at a more local level, with the specific challenges we are facing here, the response has been excellent.
For more information on best practices for businesses as they reopen, as well as how to support them through the green phase, visit RestoreChesterCounty.org.
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