You need to pick up a few new things, right? Your yoga pants are worn through, you ran out of eyeliner weeks ago (but does it matter?), and your son put toothpaste in your expensive shampoo as a hilarious prank (that was not funny at all). Furthermore, you’ve done all of your puzzles twice and you need a new one. Is it possible to have a puzzle emergency?

But there’s some good news. You can get your to-do list taken care of and support your favorite local businesses with online ordering or in-person shopping that follows strict safety guidelines.  

Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Safety measures are abundant 

It seems like changes are occurring almost daily, so be sure to check with stores, online or by phone, about their hours and precautions. Phase 2 opening comes with quite a few safety requirements for businesses, but if you are concerned, contacting the store to find out what measures they are taking may help you feel more comfortable.  

Many shops are open but limited to about 30% of their fire-code occupancy. They also must place 6-foot distance markers at checkout lines and frequently clean and sanitize high-touch areas. And any clothes that are tried on must be removed from inventory for 24 hours.

Some businesses have come up with their own creative ways to meet these requirements and slow the spread of the virus.  

Greg Urban, the president and CEO of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, shares an example of the ways stores are helping to keep customers and staff safe. “At one shop,” Urban says, “they give each customer a basket and tell them to put in anything they touch or want to buy. Then the things they touched but didn’t buy are sanitized before being reshelved.”

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Linda Jones, the president and CEO of the Lynwood Chamber of Commerce, says several stores have set up clear plastic dividers to provide additional separation between customers and staff. 

A plastic partition at Clover Toys in Ballard helps keep employees and customers safely distanced. (Courtesy of Clover Toys)
A plastic partition at Clover Toys in Ballard helps keep employees and customers safely distanced. (Courtesy of Clover Toys)

Masks are required 

Masks reduce the spread of the virus, and now wearing them is the law. So find one that you like and keep it near your keys. If you forget, some shops will provide them, but that puts a financial strain on already-strapped businesses. 

Urban says that one coffee shop owner handed out masks to every person who didn’t have one the first day they reopened. 

“She gave out 100 masks that day,” Urban says. “But when she tried to buy more, she had to pay 50 cents to $1 per mask. Paying $1 for each person who bought a $3 latte just wasn’t going to work.” 

Consider where you spend your money 

Consider supporting local businesses to support the local economy — and because it may be the safer option. 

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Some chain stores that sell groceries have been operating throughout the stay-at-home order, often with changing guidelines, and with a large clientele. “But small businesses may only have one to two people in the store,” Urban says, “and [may be] more capable of enforcing rules and keeping things sanitary.”

Shop local online 

The virus is changing the way we shop, shifting many of us to digital options. Businesses are responding by improving, or even launching, their online presence.

“At the beginning of the shutdown we realized that several small businesses didn’t have an online presence at all,” Mike Stewart, the executive director of Ballard Alliance, says. So the group created visitballard.com/shop, an Etsy-style shopping site on which Ballard businesses can sell curated products. “We sent each business owner a link to a form where they could fill out information on 10 individual items to post so businesses could continue to engage in sales even when the stores were closed.” 

Get creative in supporting restaurants

While restaurants have limited interior occupancy, many are being creative and finding new ways to feed people safely. Takeout is still an option, but now there are other ways to get your flavor fix. 

 “One catering company pivoted their business to start offering meals from food trucks in different neighborhoods,” Jones says.  

Others are taking advantage of outdoor spaces. In Edmonds, Main Street is closed for a few blocks on some Saturday evenings so that restaurants can use the space to seat diners. 

“One restaurant said the first street closure was their best sales day ever,” Urban says. “Another said they’d run out of food by 8 p.m., and that had never happened before.”

If you need extra incentive to venture out, the Ballard Alliance has created a photographic scavenger hunt photo challenge where the winner gets $250 in gift cards from local businesses.