A pyrotechnics distributor needed to oversee the arrival of a massive shipment of imported fireworks. Gun stores and shooting ranges felt the Second Amendment guaranteed Washingtonians the right to continue to purchase and bear arms. Two ceramics stores said they offered therapeutic release amid the stress of the pandemic.
And thousands of general contractors with pending projects said they didn’t want to abandon their clients.
In the early weeks of the stay-at-home order, which mandated nonessential workplaces close their doors from March 26 onward, the state received roughly 14,000 pleas from Washington businesses hoping to continue operating as (mostly) usual, according to the Department of Commerce.
Many disputed the distinction between essential and nonessential businesses.
“My clients are very stressed from the virus and I would like to stay open, as ceramics is a therapeutic exercise for many people,” wrote Pat Diaz, of Pasco Ceramics, on March 27.
Diaz said the state’s response warned her she was a nonessential business and “could get in a lot of trouble” if she remained open, including by losing her business license. Her pottery wheels are now closed to the general public, but Diaz offers curbside pickup for ceramics supplies customers can order over the phone.
And some of her longtime clients have “begged and pleaded” with her to let them throw pottery to calm frayed nerves and reconnect with each other in person, she said. Diaz said she’s allowing some to do so. She’s moved the wheels 6 feet apart, sanitized the studio and provided masks. She doesn’t permit hugs, she said.
“Them just being able to get together and do a little bit of ceramics and visiting — it’s therapy,” Diaz said.
Construction companies received a reprieve April 24, when Gov. Jay Inslee allowed many projects to proceed so long as they followed stringent safety guidelines.
Even before then, underway work was allowed to wrap up if leaving it incomplete imperiled the project or residents.
Owen Schwendiman, owner of Pasco’s Outreach Floors — which, despite its name, does more than just floors — was in the middle of two remodels when the stay-at-home order came down.
“These projects have left my customers with kitchens and bathrooms non functional,” he wrote March 25. The state told him to “get them back to where they have a functioning kitchen and bathroom. So we did that,” he said. “And then we finished up the project” last week, after the governor issued new guidance on construction.
Herb Chan, the owner of United Pyrotechnics in Bellevue, asked the Department of Commerce to allow his employees to come to the office to fill out urgently needed paperwork that would permit 100 40-foot containers of fireworks from China to pass Customs.
“Since production in China has started again, containers are being loaded,” he wrote on March 30. “The products in these containers are class 1 hazardous materials (1.3G and 1.4G fireworks) and any delay on our side would result in containers not being able to be cleared” by authorities.
The company’s computer system, he said, wasn’t set up to allow employees to work from home with ease. He received a letter from the state informing him he was permitted to perform “minimum basic operations.”
With that justification in hand, “we continued staffing the office, one person at a time,” he said.
As stay-at-home measures are extended, a handful of large-scale fireworks displays across the country have been canceled, said Chan, who predicted a quieter Fourth of July than usual.
But, he said, “it’s still two months away. A lot’s still unknown about what can happen.”