The Burnsville boutique Ficus and Fig has opened to in-store customers, despite current state guidelines only allowing non-essential retailers to sell products curbside.
“We didn’t want to go out of business. It’s getting to be as simple as that,” co-owner Kelly Barker told BMTN.
After closing for the first month of the pandemic, the store began selling products via curbside pickup. But a month later, the 16-year-old business is making a “fraction” of its normal profit, and is struggling to pay rent, she said.
"We either open or close forever," she said.
Normally, only a handful of customers are in the 3,000-square-foot shop at the same time, Barker said. She and co-owner Karen Lewis are capping the number of people inside the store at 25. The business is also offering private shopping by appointment.
“We can really keep people distanced,” she said.
The store has hand sanitizer available to use, and is also selling hand sanitizer and masks, she said.
Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store’s announcement last week that they received approval from the Governor’s Office to reopen further nudged them towards the decision, Barker said.
Robert Wagner, who owns the candy store, told Kare 11 that he got the go-ahead from the State of Minnesota because his store also sells products from local agricultural vendors, including produce and meat.
Ficus & Fig didn't apply for the same waiver that the candy store received from the State of Minnesota, but Barker and co-owner Kelly Lewis sent a letter to the Governor’s Office last week informing them of their plans.
The state recently said 20,000-some businesses can reopen with safety measures in place, but this doesn't include small retailers. Instead, the state has asked small retailers to design a safety plan for when they can reopen, and began permitting curbside pick-up May 4. Still, many small businesses have tried to open.
Barker said her store sells packaged food products, including apple chips, soups and mixes for scones and other breakfast items. Some of these come from the same vendors the candy store works with, she added.
“We are supportive of our governor, we think he’s doing a great job,” Barker said. “We understand his situation. We are just trying to survive as a small business.”
The store’s announcement on Facebook drew energized responses from both those who support and disagree with the decision. Some commenters have said they reported the business to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
“We’re just asking for people to try to see it from our side of the fence, and just wanting people to know, we respect their opinion,” Barker said. “We’re not by any means trying to be the poster children for everyone opening their doors.
"We’re just trying to make a decision that’s best for us.”