What exactly is an “essential” store that can stay open over the next two weeks during Minnesota’s stay-at-home order? The answer is murky.
In recent days, states and cities across the U.S. have defined essential differently in their stay-at-home orders. The language in Minnesota’s order, which is fairly broad, is open to interpretation and debate.
Can bookstores continue curbside pickup? Should fabric stores, video game stores and gun shops be considered essential?
The Container Store, a national chain with an outlet in Edina that sells storage and organizing products, is planning to stay open, saying it sells products and supplies that are “necessary” for people to work from home, which is one of the exemptions in Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order. In particular, the retailer noted it sells items such as desks, calendars, paper and sticky notes.
But one employee who wanted to remain unnamed questioned whether the store is truly an “essential” business, joining a conversation about what items people need over the two weeks.
Food, pharmacy, hardware and bicycle stores, as well as dry cleaners, are among the retailers that can clearly stay open during Minnesota’s stay-at-home order.
The last of the Twin Cities malls said they were closing after business hours Friday, following department stores and most specialty stores that have done so in recent weeks as state and federal officials have encouraged nonessential stores to close to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor’s order also has prompted stores such as the Minnesota locations of Guitar Center and Pure Hockey to close.
In addition to selling supplies necessary for critical sectors to continue their operations, Minnesota’s order exempts stores that sell products necessary for “workers to work from home” and for the “maintenance of the safety, sanitation and essential operation of homes or residences.”
Richfield-based Best Buy, which temporarily closed its stores nationwide last weekend, continues to offer curbside pickup at nearly all of its locations, emphasizing that it sells necessities such as computers and keyboards needed for people to work from home as well as appliances to prepare and store food.
The safety clause is likely why gun shops have decided to stay open. Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, which has locations in Robbinsdale and Circle Pines, is closing its ranges but keeping its gun shops open during the stay-at-home order.
GameStop, which faced criticism for claiming it’s an “essential” business and did not close stores nationwide until Sunday, has continued to fulfill online orders via what it is calling “Delivery @Door” where customers can come up to the door and show their IDs in order to pick up online orders. The company said it plans to continue that walk-up service during Minnesota’s stay-at-home order.
“While GameStop is best known as a provider of gaming and home entertainment systems, we also offer a wide array of products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning and virtual connectivity,” the company said in a statement.
Jo-Ann fabric stores and Michaels, which have been forced to close in some other states, are planning to keep their Minnesota locations open.
“We are a supplier of essential materials,” Shauntina Lilly, a Jo-Ann spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail. “Hospitals and volunteers across the nation are coming to us in droves for supplies to make critical items including face masks, shields, scrubs and gowns.”
Michaels did not respond to a request for comment.
Wild Birds Unlimited’s St. Paul and Minnetonka locations also will stay open.
“People are at home and they want to watch their birds,” said Teri Grimm, store manager of the St. Paul store that mostly sells bird feed.
The Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul wrote on its Facebook page that it has been granted a “critical worker exemption” by the state because it provides families and teacher educational materials and will have parking lot pickup, local delivery and shipping.
Meanwhile, Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis is waiting to hear back from the state about whether it too qualifies as an essential service so it can continue offering curbside pickup.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Paul Mostrom, the bookstore’s warehouse manager. “We will halt curbside, but will resume if we hear we are allowed.”