SCV businesses discuss changes in reopening

Restaurants are open for take-out business at Soledad Plaza in Canyon Country, May 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As some businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley are wrapping up their first weekend open in nearly two months, others are reflecting on what has become their new normal. 

While Old Town Newhall Farmers Market has remained open, as it was deemed essential, business this past weekend was booming for every vendor. 

“It was definitely busier for us, and we had expected as much because of the Mother’s Day weekend,” Market Manager Larry McClements said, adding that the market, which has been open for five years, broke its all-time sales record over the weekend. 

Nevertheless, that increase in business also meant an increase in compliance issues with new public health mandates. 

Nearly everyone had a face covering, yet there were about two dozen who didn’t, and while

Vilma Gutierrez and her daughter Jonette hold fresh farm direct berries from Gutierrez Farms at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market. Courtesy of market manager Larry McClements

market staff were diligent in asking those without them to put them on, even offering free face masks for those who didn’t have them, not everyone was happy, McClements added. 

“A couple of people said they wanted to leave instead of put it on, and that’s fine,” he said. “A couple of people had medical issues, and that’s fine.” 

What wasn’t fine were the couple of people who decided to argue, McClements added.

“Two people, not to me, decided to curse out … my yogurt lady, who’s over 60 years old, and my operations manager, who happens to be my wife,” he said. “And, both times by the time I found out about it, they were long gone … but I was disgusted at that because it’s not a joke. 

“It doesn’t matter what I think, the county Health Department will come into our market, and if people don’t have a face covering on, they’re going to write me the ticket … or the market could be shut down,” McClements added. “I’ve got 25 small businesses and farmers depending on me to make sure we’re in compliance, that’s my job.” 

Bread boules, baguettes and English muffins for sale by Little’s Loaves and Boole’s Emily Costello and Dustin Boole at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market. Courtesy of market manager Larry McClements

Even so, the majority of market-goers did their part to keep the environment safe, McClements said. 

“It was challenging,” he added. “We did have to move around lines at a couple of points and remind some people to space out, but for the most part, everybody was great.” 

Frontier Toyota, which had been closed, celebrated its reopening Friday.

“We’ve been completely overprotective and overly compliant since this began,” General Manager Bob Corson said. “We feel in our heart of hearts it was best for our community and best for our staff and our customers to wait.” 

During that time, the dealership implemented a number of changes, including posting notices on doors, enhancing cleaning protocols for both the building and the cars, and setting up plexiglass protective shields between employees and customers.

Manager Diane Roach prepares for a limited reopen for curbside pick at The Open Book store in Canyon Country on Friday, May 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal Dan Watson/The Signal

“Not only are (the shields) functional, but they put people’s minds at ease, and that’s a large part of the battle,” Corson said. “Our cleaning crew is non-stop. If anybody stops by a vacant desk, the cleaning crew’s right behind them. It’s almost gotten to be completely routine, although it seems new at the same time.” 

Even so, they’re continuing to offer home delivery as requested and home test drives, as they want to make every customer feel comfortable, Corson added. 

“And we hope they still want to come in, and when they do, we’ll be ready for that as well,” he said. “We’re proud to be a part of this great community. We’ve been here a long time. And we’re looking forward to always evolving and changing the business to make it easier for our community.”

It appears the changes they’ve implemented have done their job, as the dealership has received great feedback from customers, according to Corson. “They were surprised to see how ahead we were of the system as far as other businesses not complying yet … and they went out of their way to tell us that, and that was nice to hear.”

So far, the dealership has only brought back about a quarter of its sales staff, unsure of what the turnout would be, Corson added.

Ninos Nowell holds a giant wild Spanish prawn sold by West Coast Seafood at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market. Courtesy of market manager Larry McClements

“There was a point on Saturday morning where I thought maybe we were going to be understaffed, and later that same morning it seemed … we had too many,” he said. “It flip-flopped very quickly, but in the end we had enough people to handle the crowds.” 

During its weekend reopening, Sunflorist in Canyon Country, ran out of product for the first time in its 33 years. 

“I think the only thing that held us back was the ability to get the product,” store manager Kimo Hernandez said, adding that many of their grower-direct flower deliveries from overseas were halted as planes were focusing primarily on essential deliveries. 

Instead, the florists had to rely on local growers, such as those in Santa Barbara and San Diego.

Owner Henriette Norris prepares Mother’s Day arrangement orders for delivery as Bloomies Florist in Newhall reopens on Friday, May 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal Dan Watson/The Signal

Unlike a typical retail store, flowers are perishable, making the closures what Hernandez called a “double-edged sword,” but it’s the supply that Hernandez believes will drive up the price moving forward.

Still, the florists were able to fill all of the orders that had been placed, but the shop had to turn away some people who wanted to place orders, Hernandez added.

“Our sales actually exceeded last year’s sales,” he said, “so overall it was a good holiday for us, but we (usually) always have product left over.” 

While some have been allowed to reopen, others, like Studio Prop Rentals, a full-service movie and television prop house based in Santa Clarita, have yet to find out when things will be allowed to restart. 

“We have actually been totally shut down, and I think everyone in the movie industry that I know is in exactly the same boat,” owner Dick Kyker said. “So, it’s a struggle.” 

Trays of micro-greens by Acton Farms at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market. Courtesy of market manager Larry McClements

Though he’s heard rumors they may begin allowing filming to restart in July, that would mean he wouldn’t start seeing payments again until August, leaving him to figure out things until then.

“My savings is probably half gone now, but I have a bunch of stocks that are part of my retirement, (and) if it comes down to it, I’ll sell them,” he added. 

While he believes he can make it until then, Kyker knows there will be big changes to the industry when things are allowed to restart. 

“They’re probably going to have to wear masks on the set and try to do as much social distancing as possible,” he added. “But as far as props, we don’t really get that close together with people, even when we’re filming. … We can certainly wear masks and stay apart.”

Through it all, Kyker remains positive. “I’m just wishing everyone out there good luck and that everybody stays safe and healthy.”

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