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Some downtown Napa retailers reopen, others wait and see
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Some downtown Napa retailers reopen, others wait and see

Now that Napa County has given the green light for retailers to reopen with COVID-19 precautions, some downtown merchants have already welcomed shoppers, while others have taken a wait-and-see stance.

Leslie Parker, owner of Napa Running Company, said she’s quite happy to reopen to in-store guests. Until now, Parker had been “limping along” by offering curbside and delivery service.

Next, she needs to talk to her employees about restarting work.

“I can’t pull them off unemployment until I’m sure I can pay them,” she said. “And also I don’t know – today’s been a really good day,” she said on Wednesday.

However, “I have no idea what to expect as far as foot traffic.”

She’s hopeful other stores will also reopen, and soon. “I feel like we all need each other down here.”

First Street Napa announced that now that shoppers are expected again, signage will be installed to remind visitors of social distancing and mask wearing.

“We’re being thoughtful about our operations so we can create a safe environment for all of our tenants and guests,” said Todd Zapolski, principal and managing member, First Street Napa.

The center has developed “rigorous protocols around cleaning, sanitation and personal safety, and will continue to make adjustments as needed,” said Zapolski.

“Though its mettle has been tested time and time again, Napa has proved it is incredibly resilient,” he said.

Not every downtown merchant is ready to open their doors.

Thea Witsil, owner of Wildcat in downtown Napa, is not fully reopening this week.

“I’m not emotionally prepared right now,” Witsil said. “I also don’t want to be a guinea pig,” especially with visitors potentially traveling to Napa for Memorial Day weekend.

“That doesn’t work for me,” she said.

Witsil said she’s also still preparing health and safety protocols for her store.

“No, I’m not feeling ready, personally,” said Witsil. “I think it’s jumping the gun a little bit,” by permitting in-store retail shopping.

Customers can still schedule appointments to shop at Wildcat, she noted, but she plans to wait a few more weeks for walk-in traffic.

“I want to be part of the party but my gut is telling me to stay put for now and I’m listening to it,” said Witsil.

Molly Silcox of Nostalgia of Napa, located on Second Street, said she’s not immediately reopening either.

“My head’s not ready for it,” she said. She thinks the reopening feels like going from one extreme to another.

As of Thursday, Silcox said she’s tentatively planning to reopen on May 29.

“The store itself is ready for customers. We have every protocol ready to roll. We just have a little bit of fluffing to do inside.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the new normal is,” said the small business owner.

Is reopening retail stores good for Napa?

“I’m kind of torn on that,” Silcox admitted.

“Being that we’re a destination, people that have been locked up for two months are saying ‘I’m going to Napa.’”

However, “We don’t know where they’re from. They could be from areas that have had explosions,” of the virus.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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