An array of businesses along Philadelphia’s Main Line all had the same eerie message posted in their windows Sunday: “Per Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders, we will be closed until further notice.”
Thousands of locally and corporate-owned shops, and fitness studios locked their doors across Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester counties after Pennsylvania officials announced Saturday that all “nonessential” businesses should close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, Wolf also ordered restaurants and bars in those four counties, plus Allegheny County, to close their dine-in facilities for 14 days, while allowing carry-out and delivery services to continue.
Stores are attempting to hang on to customers by offering curbside pickup, online discounts, and free delivery. But owners said business had dropped — if not come to a complete standstill.
“It’s tough to see,” said Paul Moran, bar manager of Besito Mexican Restaurant in Ardmore’s historic Suburban Square.
“It’s a Catch-22," he said. "You need the money in your pocket, but at the same time, what’s it worth to stay open and risk it?”
The popular brunch spot was empty Sunday afternoon. Thursday and Friday nights were packed with Villanova college students, Moran said, but after the college announced it would close, business fell dramatically.
“Today, we would typically have reservations for 75 to 100 people,” Moran said. “But we only have one reservation for two people tonight.”
Saturday was a similar scene — a night that typically has reservations for 200 people saw only about 50 diners, he said.
Suburban Square, typically a hub for weekend suburban shoppers, was nearly deserted. About 75% of stores — from Lily Pulitzer to Urban Outfitters — were closed with paper signs in their windows announcing that they would temporarily close to protect customers and employees from the quickly spreading respiratory virus.
“What’s wrong with this place?” one woman asked a passerby with her hands up. “There’s actually parking today!”
But some corporate businesses, such as Blue Mercury, Starbucks, and Hip City Veg, remained open. Employees said upper management had not yet instructed them to close as of Sunday afternoon prior to the governor’s order.
Amina Rogers, manager of the Philly-based Hip City Veg in Ardmore, said the store will likely transition to takeout and delivery this week, but she didn’t know when. She said Hip City Veg planned to start working with delivery service DoorDash tomorrow and would waive all delivery fees.
Next door, the local Rebel Activewear was closed, with a hand-written sign in the window offering customers 20% off online orders and free shipping and local delivery. The Apple store was allowing pickups, too, even working with such delivery services as Postmates.
Down the street, Puns Toy Shop was one of the few businesses open Sunday afternoon along Ardmore’s Rittenhouse Place. The 33-year-old Bryn Mawr business, which moved to Ardmore three years ago, is offering curbside pickup and disinfecting its surfaces and toys, but has no plans to close anytime soon.
“Puns plans to be open through this and to be here for our community,” employee Victoria Rivers said. “We plan to be here unless someone comes knocking on our door and tells us the party’s over.”
She said that business has slowed down slightly, but that puzzle sales have spiked.
“People are buying puzzles in bulk,” Rivers said. “Everyone needs great toys for the kids stuck inside.”
Around the corner, Tired Hands Brewery also arranged pickup services. Employees wore gloves and wiped down all beer before handing it to customers. About two hours after opening, the stand had made about 60 sales, an employee said, but this would be only a fraction of the business it normally sees. Its restaurant inside was closed.
Closer to Philadelphia, along Bala Cynwyd’s City Avenue, business went on as usual. All the businesses in the shopping centers were open and fully operating, despite being under the governor’s closure orders.
Managers of such chains as Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa said that they had not received closure notices from their owners and that they planned to continue operating under normal hours until they did.
Family-owned Tran Nail Salon, tucked in the corner of the Bala Cynwyd center, also remained open, taking precautions with extra hand sanitizer and masks for any customers who asked.
Employee Kieu Nguyen said people were calling to check whether they are open, and business has remained relatively steady.
“I hope we don’t close,” she said, “but we will if we have to.”