Some retailers close their doors, others create online services during shelter-in-place order

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Children shop in Linden Tree bookstore during happier times. The State Street shop is currently shuttered, but employees are using social media to post book readings and information about things to do with kids to keep them preoccupied during the coronavirus pandemic.
Updated March 24 at 1 p.m.

The Town Crier is checking in on businesses across town impacted by the county's shelter-in-place order announced Monday (March 16) due to the novel coronavirus. This is the third part of the series; it focuses on Los Altos merchandisers. 

Dozens of business owners in Los Altos had to come to terms last week with the fact that, in the scope of an emergency, their services were not considered essential. When the six-county order to shelter in place became effective on St. Patrick’s Day, they were prohibited from continuing their in-store sales.

Many chose to lock up their shops, go home and self-isolate until tthe situation improves. Others opted to continue operations, offering curbside pickup and even throwing in free shipping for online orders to make some money within this month. The Town Crier reached out to those owners in an effort to find out more about their current operations.

Accepting the now

Cooks’ Junction assistant store manager Katherine Janes helped close her family's Main Street shop for a few weeks to renovate. They were excited to reopen last week, especially considering the investment in the store’s new look. Then the coronavirus struck.

“I do think it was a necessary step to enforce a shelter, as we want our community to stay safe and healthy,” Janes said in an email to the Town Crier. “I hope we are not closed too long as I am not sure we will be able to cover the carrying costs. But we do not plan on sitting around.”

Janes said that in the future, Cooks’ Junction will focus its efforts on online sales and delivery to customers. Those interested in showing support can find the store on Facebook and Instagram.

Ellen Biolsi of Cranberry Scoop said her State Street store was a place “committed to the community and will continue to be.” For that reason, and as mandated by the county, the shop is closed until she is allowed to reopen.

“I am still getting deliveries, so I will be in and out,” Biolsi said March 17. “I have posted on my door my contact information. If anyone needs anything, I’m happy to do what I can.”

A Paperwhirl employee who only identified herself as Nancy told the Town Crier that the Main Street shop officially closed March 18 and would remain shuttered until at least April 7.

Linden Tree Books on State Street is closed but is using social media to post book readings and things to do with children. Storytime is broadcast regularly via Facebook Live.

“That’s all, folks,” owners signed off March 16. “We’re shutting down until we’ve all recovered…. Keep calm and read on!”

A sour taste

Jacquie Gladney of Gourmet Works closed one day prior to the order due to a decline in business, and even with fewer people in the shop, monitoring social distancing was “challenging,” she told the Town Crier last week.

“It was very sweet that several people mentioned wanting to support my store and local business in general, but I was worried about my customer’s health and the health of the community,” she said. “I was very conflicted about my livelihood but also didn’t want to be a contributor to the spread.”

Gladney acknowledged that sheltering in place is the right move based on data flooding in from countries across the world who experienced COVID-19 before the U.S., and expects that the order could likely get extended – though she hopes it isn't.

For now, Gladney is using her downtime, away from her brick and mortar Main Street store, to build an online store for Gourmet Works, “something that has been sorely needed,” she said.

The Sweet Shop on Los Altos Avenue shut down completely the evening the shelter in place order was announced. However, its anticipated reopening date is still before the order concludes: April 3.

“We feel this is best for our sweet crew & community,” representatives of the candy store said in an Instagram post. “We can’t wait to see you again!”

The See’s Candies location on El Camino Real was one that the corporation chose to close, a representative of See’s told the Town Crier in an email this week. See’s is still selling candy online.

“See’s Candies is fully committed to the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers, their families and the communities we work and live in,” the spokesperson said. “Under the recent government mandates, as a company that serves perishable food, we were able to remain open or operate on limited hours. We opted to close stores including this location.”

Embracing the internet age

Although Present’s doors are no longer propped open to passersby on Main Street, co-owner James Daley told customers in a Tuesday blog post that the store is offering free USPS. shipping for web, phone and email orders over $50. Daley and his team have also created new care packages filled with comforting snacks and items for “friends and family hunkered down at home.” New gift certificates and custom order forms have also been implemented for patrons’ convenience.

Daley said that he was nervous about the shelter-in-place order when he was notified, and he hopes to be closed only as long as is necessary. However, he said Present’s employees will treat gift items shipped via mail with extra care because of the want for “family and neighbors to be safe first and foremost.”

Adventure Toys, though technically closed, is running a pickup service on Main Street.

“Changing world, changing business hours…” a post on the shop’s Facebook reads. “Call for orders and we’ll deliver curbside.”

Los Altos Hardware on First Street is taking a similar approach, asking customers to call in for curbside orders. In addition, store employees are shared posts from the North American Retail Hardware Association asking local, state, provincial and federal leaders to consider local hardware stores and home centers as an “essential need.”

“We are open for business!” Los Altos Hardware’s recent Facebook post reads. “Thank you to the hardware community for making us an essential business! We will be open until we can’t be!”

BK Collections owner Belinda Chung is trying to keep customers of her State Street boutique happy by offering to fulfill online and phone orders, gift wrapping, packing and shipping.

Skateworks on State Street is asking customers to send emails or direct messages on Instagram about potential orders. A system to implement curbside pickup and local delivery was in the works, an employee told the Town Crier.

Prior to the shelter-in-place order, Uncommon Threads owner Stephanie Hein announced on her website’s blog that the State Street store would close to the public March 14. Free shipping is being offered on all online and phone orders.

“It’s hard to know what are reasonable precautions to take in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote. “The uncertainty of this constantly evolving situation is stressful for everyone, and what better way to relieve stress than to knit? Or crochet, weave, spin…”

Related: Los Altos Chamber: Let's all help to support our local restaurants

Mountain View Chamber: Restaurants are open and need your support

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