A handful of customers wandered into Kendra Wiesemeyer’s home decor store in downtown Hudson hours after it opened Monday.
“A little retail therapy,” said the owner of The 715 and a nearby clothing boutique called Grace + Grit.
It had been a while.
On Monday Gov. Tony Evers allowed nearly all retail stores to reopen to five customers at a time as the state eases off restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
While many essential retailers like grocery stores were allowed to remain open under the state’s “safer at home” order, smaller shops had to quickly build up an online or curbside business model to keep cash flowing.
Wiesemeyer said though she’s been selling some goods online, the pandemic-fueled closures cost her about 80% of her business. Evers’ new order gives her “a little bit of hope.”
“I’m just hoping everybody plays nice because we want the best for everybody,” she said. “We don’t want to take any risks.”
Tom Unterberger, owner of Globe News card shop and record store in Superior, said he was “pleasantly shocked” at the news he could reopen.
“I’ve been in this place for 37 years and this has been the most bizarre two months I’ve ever experienced,” he said Monday afternoon. “We’ll have plexiglass shields and employees wearing gloves. I think people will be able to maintain distance.”
Nice weather could draw window shoppers across state borders this weekend, though Mary Claire Olson Potter, president of Hudson’s Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber doesn’t encourage Minnesotans to violate Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, which lasts through May 18.
Allowing the smaller retail stores to open will revive about 90,000 jobs in 14,000 businesses, said Missy Hughes, secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. More than half a million people have filed for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin since mid-March.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine cheered the governor’s decision: “This is a major step forward for business in our community and a clear acknowledgment that the sacrifices many of you made have worked.”
More than 10,000 Wisconsin residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 409 people have died of the illness. Minnesota, with slightly fewer residents, is approaching 12,000 cases and has recorded 591 deaths.
Douglas County, home to Superior, has confirmed just 11 cases out of nearly 800 tests. St. Croix County, home to Hudson, has confirmed 29 cases out of more than 1,000 tests.
Establishing community testing sites is part of the governor’s plan to increase testing to get a better handle on where the virus is and to limit its spread.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.