MONMOUTH — Local business owners have a lot to consider as they navigate the sometimes quick-changing mandates in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
They have to do their best to make sure their employees and customers are safe while covering their own expenses so they can keep their doors open.
They have to follow mandates, such as physical distancing and the statewide rule for face coverings in all indoor public spaces.
But they don’t have to do it alone, they can help each other. And customers can help them.
“Monmouth businesses are trying to do the best job we can to be safe and stay open,” said Monmouth Business Association President Miriam Haugen, of Haugen’s Galleri.
The MBA and MonmouthIndependence Chamber of Commerce teamed up to create posters for businesses to display reminding customers that face coverings are required.
“We care about our community and we care about safety,” Haugen said.
They want to put that message out there in a positive way, she said.
The idea for the posters came from Grain Station owner Jeff Glodt, she said.
“He just felt we needed some unified messaging from our local business community,” Haugen said.
The making of the posters was a collaborative effort.
“I had a ton of fun,” said MICC Executive Director Kathleen Mason. “I went all over town and took these pictures. Rody Gonzalez (of @ Screen Printing & Design) worked with MBA and took all my pictures and created this very cool poster.”
Walt’s printing did the printing and the city of Monmouth picked up the tab.
Glodt is hoping a united message from businesses will help bring the community together.
He said some customers have said they are upset that they have to wear masks and that they feel their rights are being violated.
Some have expressed that in a way that is disrespectful to staff or threatening to the business, he said.
Glodt has been in the restaurant industry for most of his life and said he can handle those situations, but restaurant employees “are getting absolutely crapped on on a regular basis.”
The state makes the rules, but the business owners have to take the brunt of people’s anger.
On the opposite end, some businesses have experienced people reporting them for perceived disregard for the rules.
Haugen said it’s best to try talking with a manager or owner first.
“Express your concerns directly to the person who has the power to change it,” Haugen said. “It’s in their own interest to make their customers feel comfortable, feel at ease, feel safe. We value their business.”
“Rules changing every two weeks,” Glodt said. “It makes it difficult to do our job. It’s putting retail people in an unfair situation.”
While he recognizes people have different opinion on the science behind the regulations, he hopes they can find common ground.
“What we’re trying to do is put these (posters) out to protect our communities,” Glodt said. “We do care about these things. I have to protect my employees. State agencies hold us accountable.”
That said, they don’t turn someone away if they’ve forgotten their mask.
“We are in the business of being accommodating,” Glodt said. “If you come in and don’t have a mask, we provide them.”
Grain Station charges 75 cents per disposable mask.
Businesses also have to provide masks for their employees.
The MICC helped to distribute 1,200 masks from Polk County emergency management.
“The cities, MBA, Independence Downtown Association, the chamber, we’re just trying to do what we can to support the businesses,” Mason said. “We have about 144 members. Out of that there’s probably been half dozen maybe eight who had to close their doors.”
There have been some new businesses opening too – Gilgamesh and Silk Thai in Independence and Mink’s Pad Thai and the Collection on Main in Monmouth.
“Right now the chamber is just working to help everybody,” Mason said, regardless of whether they are chamber members or not. “We don’t want anybody left behind.”