As projected, Long Island began the Phase One reopening of its battered economy on May 27, paving the way for construction and wholesale trade companies to restart operations, along with retailers for curbside pickup only.
David Perez, assistant manager of the Costello’s ACE Hardware in Baldwin, said the business has remained open for the last couple of months, but with adjusted business hours and additional services, including free deliveries and curbside pickup and drop-off.
“People are able to come in as long as there’s masks,” he said. “If it gets too crowded, we start lines outside.”
The store adheres to safety guidelines such as employees wearing protective gear and practicing social distancing. Clear plastic was installed as a barrier between customers and employees, and lines on the floor mark six feet between people.
Business has skyrocketed, Perez said, and most of the struggle has been endured by the employees. Some patrons get too close to the employees, disrespecting the social-distancing guidelines, he explained, and sometimes the store is short-staffed.
But while other businesses have reduced their staff, Costello’s ACE Hardware has hired new employees.
“There was a pretty critical point where everybody was gone from the store, scared of coronavirus,” he said of former workers, “and essentially, we were able to build another team.”
Perez himself began working for the store only a couple of months before the Covid-19 crisis began, and now finds himself working more than 52 hours a week. Despite some struggles, the Costello family dropped in to the store to help out in hands-on ways, he added.
“We’re doing pretty good at this point,” Perez said. “We got a little bit of structure back.”
Perez also encouraged shoppers to buy locally and support the community.
“Thank God our elected officials are finally opening up our starving businesses,” said Erik Mahler, Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president.
A representative of Atlantic Hardware in Freeport — a Baldwin chamber member — said that the store has remained open throughout the crisis as an essential business. When the virus first started to spread in the area, the shop implemented special hours and would close early, but is now back to normal hours.
The reopening of the Long Island economy will play out by region in three distinct phases hereafter:
Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing.
Phase Three: Restaurants and food services, beyond takeout and delivery.
Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.
If the number of deaths, hospitalizations and new Covid-19 cases remains stable or declines for two weeks, a region can move on to the next phase of reopening.