Wisconsin allowing retail stores to reopen for in-person shopping, starting immediately

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is allowing retail stores to reopen for in-person shopping, effective immediately. 

The governor issued an emergency order Monday allowing all standalone or strip-mall based retail stores to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time while following social distancing guidelines. Stores that are wholly inside shopping malls with no outdoor entrance are not allowed to open at this time. 

The emergency order also allows drive-in theaters to operate with some restrictions. 

"In addition to added flexibilities and steps we have already taken for businesses, this is another disciplined turn of the dial that will allow Wisconsin's business owners to safely get back to work and Wisconsin consumers to support their favorite local spots," Evers said in a statement. "Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety, so we need everyone to be diligent in following best safety practices so we can continue to move our state forward while keeping our neighbors, families, and communities safe and healthy." 

All businesses must continue to follow all safety precautions and guidelines under Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order, which remains in effect until May 26

Businesses react

“When we got that news it was like yes! And we will be very controlled on how we do it,” Owner of The Purple Tree in downtown Hudson Sarah Burch said.

Bruch says they plan to have hand sanitizer available for all customers, staff will wear masks and they will have masks available for customers who want one but did not bring one. They’ll also have plexiglass around the register, will require their customers to socially distance while waiting in line and are not allowing customers to try on clothes.

“We’re going to have our doors propped open kind of having fresh air circulate as much as we can. I think it’s a very safe and controlled way for people to have a change of scenery,” Burch said. “We want people to feel safe and we want people to be safe and we want our employees to feel safe too.”

Some Wisconsin business owners say they’re not quite ready to open back up and will not be opening their doors for customers right now.

“We’re just kind of playing it by ear. It hit us today. We need some time to disseminate the information, think about what we’re going to do, make plans, make signs and come up with some rules that make sense for everyone,” owner of Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Brian Roegge said.

While some business owners celebrate the return of a more normal retail experience, across the river in Stillwater, many business owners are concerned over what the re-opening of Wisconsin will mean for Minnesota businesses.

“If the Wisconsin side is open you can bet that people will go across the bridge and go ahead and do their business over there,” Executive Director of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Robin Anthony said.

Anthony says especially with the summer tourism season coming up she’s concerned that many businesses will not be able to survive missing out on business during peak season, especially if customers chose to take their money across the border.