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Bay area small business prepares to reopen, slowly

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Dale Wellhofer has owned the Mona Lisa frame shop on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa for 16 years.

The last two months have been some of the toughest she’s ever had to endure as a small business owner.

“I’ve had no income for close to two months. That’s hard, especially in the Westshore, Kennedy area where the rent is high said Wellhofer.

She closed as many businesses were starting to shut down at the start of the pandemic.

“People come in here and I know they’re scared, and of course I’m scared. I mean, because you don’t know who has been exposed to it,” said Wellhofer.

She has a mask and gloves to wear and hand sanitizer on her front counter for customers.

She feels as prepared as she can be for customers.

Many other small business owners have decided to remain closed, even though government restrictions are being eased.

They have concerns about how to stay open and stay safe.

At Fastsigns on Kennedy Boulevard, they have figured out how to stay open, by closing their office to customers.

“Generally on a normal day they would be in here, we would do meetings, we would go out and meet with them, now we aren’t doing any of that,” said Sarah Curry with Fastsigns.

They are now doing most of their business by phone and limiting human contact.

“Here, as far as their signs go, we send them a link. They pay online so we don’t have to do an exchange of cards or money and then they call us once they arrive and we set their signs outside and they grab them once we come back in,” said Curry.

Much of their business now is making signs for other businesses that promote social distancing and other safety guidelines.

“Everyone is getting these decals that go on the ground. They say, ‘six feet social distancing’ on them so people know where to stand and stay six feet apart. A big hit right now are these sneeze guards, everybody is getting those,” said Lauren Acri with Fastsigns.

The head of the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce said they are getting some calls from business owners asking about safety guidelines.

“It’s really important that each business understands what their industry recommends and understand what the government is requiring of their industry and take the time to be prepared,” said Bob Rohrlack with the chamber.

“We will be back to business sooner than we think but we just need to do this in a methodical phased in process.”

More tips from OSHA can be found here.

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