Local business community puts in extra work to prepare for reopening weekend

Roanoke Regional SBCD started prepping businesses weeks ago

ROANOKE, Va. – Today, Phase 1 of reopening Virginia starts, a day many business owners and their staff have been waiting for.

Diane Speaks owns She’s International Boutique in Downtown Roanoke and told 10 News she is ready for downtown to no longer be a ghost town.

Her storefront closed back in March and online sales haven’t been ideal, so she’s doing all she can to make this reopening weekend count.

The plan is to limit the number of people coming in and even put down tape to make sure the distance of six feet is enforced.

Boutique staff rearranged the store so customers can shop with more distance from each other. Staff will wear masks and Speaks as shoppers to do the same.

“We hope that people will come. I’ve been in business for 15 years so they haven’t failed us yet. The community of Roanoke is great especially now I think they’ll support us,” Speaks said.

The boutique will only be open five days instead of its usual seven days because Speaks wants to get a better gauge on the flow of business. She also said only half of her staff is being brought back.

Phase 1 of reopening Virginia is a long time coming for businesses and the organizations that have been helping them get ready for the big day.

When this rough time first started, Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) guided local businesses needing to pivot services so they could still operate. The center also connected them to the loans designed to keep them afloat.

Now they’ve redirected focus on resiliency and recovery.

To make sure local businesses were on track for reopening, Roanoke Regional SBDC hosted a free Re-Opening Mask Friendly event on Zoom. The event featured the health department, businesses who were staying afloat by implementing changes and a travelers association for tourism-based businesses. At that time they weren’t sure the guidelines but wanted businesses to be ready.

“Really the conversation was around what is the health and safety look like when we reopen. We know we are reopening while Coronavirus is still here and around us. So walking through what some of those precautions might be and really just having community conversation,” said Amanda Forrester, the center’s director.

Since that event two weeks ago, the local SBDC have been meeting with individual businesses to make sure they were up to date with guidelines and how they were going to make reopening happen.

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