Jefferson Graham

Some Manhattan Beach retailers reopen

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Lauren Day and Marissa Marsh from Waverly Boutique in Manhattan Beach, which re-opened Friday. Photo by Jefferson Graham

by Jefferson Graham

Manhattan Beach small businesses are back open again. At least, some of them. 

This is despite the California stay-at-home order that ordered small businesses to close their doors, except for curbside delivery. Thursday, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted 5-0 to request the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors  allow Manhattan retailers to reopen.  An apparent misunderstanding of the letter led some businesses to think they were allowed to have customers enter their stores if the customers wore masks and socially distanced.

“We thought stores would be closed a few weeks, not 9,” says Manhattan Beach mayor Richard Montgomery. “No one ever envisioned that.” 

He says the city made its feelings known to the state to reopen, but were met with silence

A spot check of downtown stores Friday saw some of the big players, like Skechers, Tabula Rosa and Spyder Surf with wide open doors, while others, like {pages} a bookstore and Dan Deutsch Optical offering just curbside pickup. 

A good half of stores were still closed.

“We couldn’t be happier,” says Marissa Marsh, the owner of the Waverly boutique on Manhattan Avenue. “It feels so good to have the doors open and the sea breeze coming in.”

The rush to open for Memorial Day all happened quickly. As the beaches, bike path and Strand slowly re-opened this week, a protest outside City Hall Tuesday demanded that small businesses be allowed to open for Memorial Day weekend too. Supervisor Janice Hahn, representing Los Angeles County, agreed, and wrote Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to open up the county for all businesses. 

“What seemed to be a necessary measure at the early onset of this crisis has unintentionally created winners and losers in this ‘pandemic economy,’ with large retail businesses able to operate, while small retail businesses are struggling and limited to curbside pickup,” Hahn said. “This needs to change.”

After the council voted Thursday morning, some stores responded by opening up as early as Thursday afternoon, others opted for Friday morning, and “many more will open up on Saturday,” says Kelly Stroman, the president and CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. 

“Some weren’t comfortable opening yet, some needed time to get their staffs back together,” she says. “It’s an individual choice.”

“We trust everybody to do the right thing,” says Kelly Barone, who works at the Riley Arts Gallery on Manhattan Avenue. 

While the Third Gallery on Manhattan Beach Blvd. opened at 10 a.m. on Friday, {pages} a bookstore remained closed, and said on its Facebook page that it would remain open only for curbside delivery through the holiday weekend. 

We are happy for all of our friends in downtown who are ready to open their doors to customers. {pages} needs just a little more time to get our store ready for visitors and to make sure it’s safe for our staff and customers.”

Kelly Barone is a good six feet away from Kim Riley at the Riley Arts gallery on Manhattan Blvd. Photo by Jefferson Graham

Kelly Hoose, the owner of Third Gallery, says she was on the cusp with having to decide whether to shut the store entirely if the small business ban remained in place much longer. 

“It just wasn’t sustainable at all,” she says. “I’m behind on everything. Even if you did have to close, how do you get rid of your merchandise if you can’t let people in to look at it?”

Maureen McBride, whose heartfelt plea on Facebook and in an e-mail blast to her customers to change the restrictions brought in 3,000 comments that got forwarded to the council, was beaming Friday morning. 

The store was busy, with several customers, in masks, who were buying orders, and media reps were lined up outside the door (including KNBC-TV Los Angeles) to interview her. 

“We really needed this,” she said. “We were going to lose business downtown. We need a level playing field. Target, Costco, Home Depot are open, and we weren’t, and that was unfair.”

Tabula Rasa in Manhattan Beach reopened their doors Friday and found customers eager to start buying again. Photo by Jefferson Graham

But there is still a pandemic, with 35 COVID-19 deaths and 1,072 new cases reported in Los Angeles County on Friday alone.

(The total in the Beach Cities: 28 cases in Hermosa, 76 in Manhattan and 132 in Redondo.)

How does McBride feel about the potential to catch COVID by being open for business? 

“We know it’s out there, but we’ve had such low levels locally,” she says. “We’re not tracking like LA County is, and we’re taking every precaution we can.”

The other missing link to Manhattan Beach businesses: restaurants and other types of retail, like beauty salons and barbers, are under guidelines, most notably, the L.A. County Dept of Health, and Stroman says they’re in discussions to find ways for them to re-open. 

Montgomery is hopeful that restaurants will be open by June 1. “Certainly way ahead of July,” he adds. ER

The owners of {pages} a bookstore preferred being open for curbside delivery only and will keep their doors shut through Memorial Day. Photo by Jefferson Graham

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