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Sandwich Chamber: Phase 1 Reopening Puts Small Businesses at Disadvantage

Alecia Orsini

As businesses and religious organizations react to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Phase 1 reopening plan, the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce is calling on the state to reconsider the decision not to include in-store shopping.

Denise Dever, director of the Sandwich Chamber, said small village shops can’t even allow two or three customers inside, whereas big-box stores that remained open allow far more shoppers.

“This could definitely be the killer, if you will, and I just felt like common sense should prevail,” she said. “And maybe a reconsideration of this decision, especially for these smaller retail shops, should be in the works.”

State Senator Julian Cyr, spokesman for the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force, echoed her sentiments during a recent conference call.

“I would tend to agree with your assessment of the inequity there, but that decision’s above my pay grade,” he said.

Cyr was Cape Cod’s only state senator until Susan Moran, a Falmouth Democrat, won a vacant Senate seat Tuesday representing Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich and part of Plymouth County.

Under the state’s phased reopening plan, retailers deemed non-essential can start curbside pickup on Monday, but won’t open for in-store shopping until at least June 8, in Phase 2. 

Baker said Phase 1 will last at least three weeks.

How long it lasts will depend on what happens during that time in terms of new coronavirus cases and public compliance, officials said.

For small retailers, notably clothing and jewelry stores, the news was not good.

“This is extremely further out than any of us expected,” said Dan Maxwell, owners of Maxwell & Co., a clothing shop in Falmouth.

Sandwich Fire Chief John Burke, who wrote his master’s thesis on pandemic response, said he was surprised to see hair salons and barber shops open in Phase 1 because of the employees’ close proximity to customers and shops’ limited square footage.

Barbers and stylists can begin cutting hair, provided they take precautions, on May 25.

Phase 1 also gives the green light for manufacturing facilities to open right away, a decision that affects several large factories on the South Coast.

Joe Bahena, senior vice president of New Bedford suit maker Joseph Abboud, said the company plans to reopen carefully, probably next week or later.

Bahena is the only South Coast member of the governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. He said Joseph Abboud will base its reopening decisions on a few factors.

“We’re kind of just figuring out where the demand signals are for suits right now,” he said, “but also I’m trying to figure out where our employees are in terms of their desire to return at this point.”

About 15 percent of the company’s manufacturing employees have been at work, stitching some 250,000 protective masks.

Gun clubs and dealers are opening, too.

Ron Enos, president of the Wankinquoah Rod and Gun Club in Middleboro, said he believes it’s the right choice. He said the club will open the outdoor range first and consult with the Middleboro Board of Health.

“People need to get out,” he said.

In addition to retail, Phase 2 is expected to include restaurants, lodging, playgrounds, campgrounds, and limited youth sports (no games), among others.

Most day care centers will remain closed until the end of June, but Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the emergency child care system has plenty of unfilled slots available to children whose parents must return to work.