Helping a Client Promote a Reopening and New Safety Protocols

 In Blog

I help the leaders of Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, Massachusetts, by writing press releases that focus in on shop owners and also announce new events or milestones. After the release is sent to the media, I repurpose the material as a blog that gets posted on the Thornes website. The blog below was written this summer, after Thornes announced its reopening.

Sharon Cohen, the owner of Footbeats for Women on the main level of Thornes Marketplace, entered her fourth year in business on July 1. It’s a difficult time, but like all merchants in our eclectic shopping center, Sharon is working hard to reach customers and ensure their safety.

Thornes reopened for business on June 8 after putting many new protocols and equipment in place, including air filters that heighten air quality, foggers that sanitize the building nightly, and door monitors at each of the two open entrances to ensure that people entering Thornes wear masks and sanitize their hands. Thornes also installed hands-free door openers on bathroom doors.

Without college students and tourists from out of town, business is slower than is typical for this time of year, but customers are returning steadily. Shops owners such as Sharon, who have also instituted countless safety measures, are happy to see them.

“We’ve revamped the way the store is laid out to promote social distancing,” Sharon says. “Shoppers are saying, ‘I just wanted to shop with somebody locally.’ We’re hearing a lot of that. I think that’s awesome.”

After Thornes—and most retail and other industries statewide—were shut down this spring due to COVID-19, Sharon launched a website at footbeatsforwomen.com, so customers could still purchase her shoes. She made deliveries to peoples’ homes.

Every Friday afternoon, she also began using Facebook live to talk about shoes in stock and offer commentary on trends and new styles. “I pick them off the displays on the wall and talk about them. Customers would text and ask questions about cost or size,” she says, noting she will likely continue that practice. “We tried new, inventive ways to meet the customers.”

Sharon also says when customers try on a pair of shoes in the store, if they are leather and cannot be sanitized, they are put in quarantine for 24 hours, as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) guidelines.

Thornes itself has the safety of shoppers, store owners, and staff at the forefront as it expands and flexes systems and operations.

“Thornes has done a lot to prepare for our opening, and we continue to stay educated and follow safety protocols,” Thornes Co-President Richard Madowitz says. “We are receiving consistent positive feedback from shoppers on the cleanliness of the building and their comfort. We are providing a safe environment.”

He adds, “We have installed iWave ionizing air filters in all AC air handlers in the building to ensure high air quality, and we’ve purchased foggers that allow us to do extensive sanitizing overnight, while we are closed.”

Masks are available at the two open entrances, which are on Main Street and at the skywalk to and from the parking garage. “Masks are not required for those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing one,” Rich adds.

All shared tables and chairs on the building’s second and third floors, such as Share Coffee’s seating, have been removed, and directional arrows on the floors separate traffic and promote social distancing, as do stanchions throughout.

“Signage is everywhere,” Rich stresses. “Each store is managing its state-mandated capacity count, and Thornes itself is managing the state-mandated capacity counts for its common spaces without shops.”

Every morning before work, all Thornes staff follow CDCP protocols, running through a COVID-19 readiness checklist before reporting for work.

All shops in Thornes are open daily.

Thornes Marketplace has been the cornerstone of downtown Northampton and at the center of the Main Street shopping district for more than a century. Built in 1873, it holds 55,000 square feet of space for merchants and includes features like pressed tin ceilings and hardwood floors.

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