With cautious optimism—and a lot of hand sanitizer—businesses in Southeastern Pennsylvania have entered Phase Yellow, the next stage of the reopening plan created by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and local business organizations have spent weeks preparing for it.
Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia District, says the business-oriented nonprofit will deploy a robust, phased-in marketing campaign. “We’ll very strongly market King of Prussia’s sense of community and pride and convey a sense of action to bring people back to the area they love,” says Goldstein. “King of Prussia is a magnet for dining, retail and entertainment. Life has changed, but that has not.”
Will customers feel safe going to restaurants and retail stores? “One of our goals is communicating the new safety protocols at local businesses,” says Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. “We’re distributing a lot of information and making it easy to understand because we know that people are overwhelmed and a bit fearful.”
To support small businesses, the chamber joined with Delaware County Council and Delaware County Commerce Center to create the Bringing Back Delco Task Force. It’s holding virtual events to share information and ideas with small business owners. Delaware County and its township officials have been incredibly supportive, McFarland says. Goldstein says the same about Upper Merion Township, which created an expedited process for restaurants to obtain permits that allow for outdoor dining.
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Malvern has also been supportive, says David Campli, owner of Campli Photography and president of the Malvern Business Association. Borough officials host weekly Zoom sessions to relay information to business owners. Contactless payment, staggered customer appointments, and log books of customer visits for potential contact tracing are just a few of the strategies that will be deployed there during Phase Yellow. Campli hopes the new protocols will inspire confidence among customers.
To that end, MBA created new street banners festooned in yellow and green to match the current and future phases of reopening. MBA is also hosting a Malvern Stroll on June 18. “Physically distant but socially engaged is the goal,” Campli says.
The same is true in Radnor Township. “We’re working together to figure out how to support all of the small businesses, not just the restaurants,” says Chris Todd, president of the Wayne Business Association and owner of Christopher’s restaurants in Wayne and Malvern.
While closing North Wayne Avenue to traffic and installing tents for outdoor dining would be great for restaurants, it may negatively impact retail businesses, Todd says. Parking, walk-up access to storefronts and curbside delivery are important to stores. “Closing the street is not the answer, but we’re not sure what is,” Todd says. “A lot of it depends on customer behavior and if they come back to support the small businesses. We need support from the communities we’ve supported.”