Retail reopening: Local shoppers react to Tri-Cities retailer’s decision to reopen

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee last week announced guidelines for retailers to launch their reopening on Wednesday. However, one Tri-Cities store welcomed its first customers Monday.

Hamrick’s of Kingsport general manager told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the store in fact opened two days before the governor’s recommended date. No explanation was able to be offered by the manager at the time of the call due to corporate communications policies within the company.

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Tri-Cities resident Cindy Holt saw the store open and decided to check it out. She said she felt it was safe, given the fact that there were few cars in the parking lot at the time.

“I honestly just drove by, saw that they were open and thought I would drop by and check them out,” Holt said. “I think it’s good. I think we eventually have to open things back up. I totally respect the people that do not want to go out right now as just like a soft-opening, but no, I totally support stores reopening right now.”

She added that she is taking certain steps to ensure her safety while shopping.

“We’re being diligent about keeping our hands clean, there’s hand sanitizer, wipes everywhere and we’re just being very, very cautious and we don’t be into big groups or anything like that, but yeah we’re ready,” Holt said. “We know it’s probably going to be the new normal, we realize things, you know, not everything’s going to open up and not everybody’s going to be able to rush out and shop, but a gradual opening would be very nice. I think everybody is ready.”

Down the road at the Fort Henry Mall, Stacey Miller told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that she doesn’t think reopening retail will be easy to monitor.

“You know, I think it’s a lot easier for restaurants, I believe restaurants are re-opening today, it might be easier to govern that, some of the smaller retail shops would probably be easier to monitor and police the number of people coming in and out. I’m not sure how the mall, you know, can control many people coming in at one time,” Miller said. “I think if people, I dare to say, practice common sense and protect themselves, and you know, nobody’s saying you have to get out.”

She added that she doesn’t think the reopening of any businesses should mean people feel forced to leave their homes, yet she maintained that people should support those most effected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your home yet, don’t. Wear a mask and just protect yourself, be cognizant of those around you and just remember the social distancing as best you can especially if you’re going back to being around anybody that may be immuno-compromised, any of the elderly, anybody that you’re going to be around – be smart, make smart choices – and if you’re just itching to get out of the house, there’s other places that you can go besides retail, but at the same time, we want to support small businesses and support those folks who are on the front lines as well,” she said.

Sullivan County leaders along with healthcare leaders from the county health department will host a digital seminar Tuesday outlining the county’s reopening plan.

Speakers during the webinar will include:

  • City of Kingsport Mayor, Patrick Shull
  • City of Bristol Mayor, Margaret Feierabend
  • Sullivan County Mayor, Richard Venable
  • Director of Regional Sullivan County Health Department, Gary Mayes
  • Regional Medical Director for Sullivan County, Regional Health Department, Dr. Stephen May
  • Dr. Patrick H. Spivey, MD

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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