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Shops struggle with stay-at-home order

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When Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the Monday closure of many stores across the state, The Nook owner Amy Wiggins admitted to feeling panic both personally and professionally.

“Our shop is considered essential because I sell frozen food,” Wiggins said of her Ladyfingers gourmet-to-go product line. “Even though I technically can stay open, I’m going to transition to curbside. I just think that is safer for everyone.”

Next door in Brentwood, Vaughan’s Jewelers turned the key Monday to lock the door until April 29.

“I don’t mind there being a blanket order in place, if it was specific enough to do what it is in place for, and that is keeping people at home,” Tripp Vaughan said. “With half the businesses out and half the businesses not, is it really making a difference?”

Wiggins agreed with Vaughan, a third generation owner of the nearly 71-year-old business.

“I’m not sure how effective it will be,” she said. “If people use the essential businesses like they are supposed to be used, it is great. But if people use the grocery store to just get out of the house and socialize, it is not going to work.”

The jewelers’ four part-time employees stopped working around St. Patrick’s Day, but the plan is to continue to pay full-time staff despite the closure. Vaughan said he’s hoping to do insurance appraisals and design custom jewelry during the closure. To schedule an appointment, call Vaughan at 252-230-5001.

“Some of the manufacturers we use are closed, and some are open,” he said. “I’ll be working by appointment for anyone who would like to design something. I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue that knowing we can manufacture once the 30 days is over.”

Since the business uses social media to share updates rather than make sales, Vaughan is worried about keeping the shop afloat longer than a month.

“As much as we care about our bottom line, everyone’s health in the community is the most important priority,” he said. “Even though it hurts now, we have to think about the future and keeping everyone safe.”

The Nook already uses Instagram and Facebook to promote products, but she plans to offer personal shopping for gift items. For those needing a baby shower present or something to cheer a friend up, Wiggins said she can text photos or use Facetime. In addition to curbside pick-up, her employees are chipping in to offer free local delivery.

“I’m thankful they are willing to do what needs to be done,” she said. “I just hope our customers bear with us as we work through the kinks and figure out how best to survive.”

Elaine Raper and sister Christy Duke will miss the first anniversary of E&C Children’s Shop in Gateway Plaza due to the forced closure.

“We’ve had customers who want to spend their money local, asking for a timeframe to reopen, but we don’t have one. We will whenever they let us, but I hope to God it isn’t June like in Virginia,” Raper said, referring to a new order issued Monday. “We’re new to this like everyone else, and we hope to open back soon, but it is going to hurt a lot of businesses if it lasts until June.”

Stores of all sizes are using social media to announce closures — some preemptive to the executive order — or a change in business to limit the exposure to employees and customers alike. For example, Best Buy is offering contact-less curbside pick-up of online orders while Hobby Lobby is limiting the number of customers in the store at a time.

“I’m not as concerned about this month as the months soon after. I think that is when it is going to hit businesses harder,” Wiggins said. “I think right now people are excited to help, but once they are out of work for a month or two month, it is going to be harder to do that.”