Carson City businesses gear up for walk-in customers

The Purple Avocado owner Sue Jones usually sets out one or two chairs before Mother’s Day each year for last-minute shoppers looking for that something special. For 2020, with COVID-19 taking its toll, today might be unusual if it makes the staff spread some chairs more than 6 feet apart for an even longer line and more extended waits.

Jones and her husband Stan on Friday scurried quickly with their preparations after Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday he would ease restrictions for Phase 1 and allow certain retailers to reopen as of midnight today.

“We are opening, and we’re trying to put into place all the safe practices,” Jones said Friday. “We’ll have hand sanitizer at the door before (customers) come in and we’ll ask them to please wear masks,” she said. “We’ll only let a certain number of people in the store at one time, and even though we love to visit so much, we’ll have to limit how much we do that.”

Jones said she and her staff have been cleaning and picking up for the past month, “getting it back into tip-top shape.”

For customers who aren’t quite ready to re-enter stores yet out of caution, the Purple Avocado will continue to offer its online option, Jones said, and others will, too. The recent flurry of recognition days such as Teacher Appreciation Day, Nurse Appreciation Day and especially Mother’s Day has provided an abundance of items to spur excitement from customers online “like crazy,” Jones noted.

In the 19 years her shop has been in business, her store never had been closed for anyone to set foot in except for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two months, the Purple Avocado at 904 N. Curry St. in Carson City is doing well since Jones closed her doors in March. Her merchandise still remains available online for those who might be reluctant to visit the shop today, and the online format has been useful.

“We’ve had lots of really great encouragement and support, and people are sharing posts encouraging us,” she said. “We’ve got a really nice rock outside in our front yard painted ‘Perseverance.’ ”

Meanwhile, over at 1851 S. Roop St., suite 451, Brad Paula, owner of fitness center Well Being, said training his clients online for the interim has been a different experience than having them in his gym.

“We encourage anyone that has reservations that it’s not a straight-up recorded product, that you are interacting both verbally and visually and that’s really quite close, sort of being in each other’s face,” he said.

Local businesses are doing what they can to survive during the pandemic to sell their merchandise or offer their services. Some have retained their traditional methods, limiting customers within their facilities and adhering to social distancing measures. Others are using virtual salesmanship as customers abide by Sisolak’s orders to remain at home.

While the basics of online marketing already are a natural tool for larger chains, retailers like Jones are discovering new strategies using sites like Facebook for business for the first time and it’s beneficial for them while the public is asked to stay home. She said she’s recruited assistance to reach beyond her typical clientele.

“I have a social media wizard helping me since it’s all new to me, and that’s been great to have her helping me,” she said. “I was not social media savvy. It’s been working out.”

She’s also found how to better market items in her store, which offers collectibles, jewelry, cards and other items, visually for those who are discerning about what they’re seeking.

“Our store is so full of items, some items get neglected by me and if you put them up low or high when you take a picture and you put them up higher, on a shopping site, it’s like all of a sudden, that is a cool item,” she said. “It’s nice because we can give some of those hidden objects more attention, and it’s cool because people haven’t seen them.”

For other businesses, maintaining a physical presence is critical for survival, literally. Paula at Well Being said he’s adjusted to some fairly unusual circumstances in the time he’s been in business, but working through the age of coronavirus is “so out of control,” he said.

Paula, with a background in the natural sciences and having participated in competitive swimming, said he’s acquired a number of fitness and personal training certifications since the early 2000s. He’s worked as a coach, trainer and a ski instructor at Northstar since 1993. He’s enjoyed his personal fitness endeavors so much that starting up Well Being with Alina, who has a degree in sports science from Romania and a massage therapy license through the state of Nevada, was a natural step in his career.

“We definitely know well enough that it’s our calling,” he said. “We just continue to be up for the challenge.”

But COVID-19 took away their time with their clients, and it was a challenge neither one expected this year.

With his location currently closed physically, he and his wife, Alina Paula, a massage therapist, adapted their business to online classes to help motivate their clients and keep them in shape until they can reopen. Gyms and fitness facilities aren’t allowed to reopen yet in Phase 1, according to Sisolak’s announcement Thursday.

Paula’s classes focus on body weight movement, superband resistance movement, tubing equipment and various approaches to assist with mobility and stability, he said.

“They (the clients) would love to be in the gym, and I think more so than not but from the standpoint of an alternative of doing nothing or putting their training on hiatus, but the training has been valuable to them,” he said. “So more or less from the online approach, that’s what we did. We adapted the classes that we could.”

Prior to closing in March, Paula said he already began taking precautions in his gym and started offering gloves and hand sanitizer, and he and his staff began spraying down their machines and exercise equipment. But once the announcements came to close for good, the Paulas had to determine how to take their classes online and modify classes accordingly.

“I’m sure (our clients) were skeptical,” he said. “But to some degree, I think they appreciated the convenience of it. We’ve also offered access to recordings for the classes. It’s an added benefit, and it’s been working OK from that perspective. But some people did not want to train remotely.”

The massage therapy aspect, however, suffered with the closures, which is a key component for Well Being. Several independent contractors provide massage services along with Alina Paula, who is also a personal trainer.

They’ve adapted by consulting through Zoom or Facetime, making recommendations for improvements in their clients’ training based on assessments, Paula said. They offer different health and fitness classes and apps through Facebook, and generally clients have responded well, he said.

“It’s opened our eyes to another opportunity that continued to be a component of our business,” Paula said.


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