Businesses, residents adapt to COVID-19 measures

Businesses, residents adapt to COVID-19 measures

Jimmy Alger, an out-of-work DJ from Woonsocket, makes a grilled cheese sandwich for Adelaide Turner of Blackstone outside Krakow Deli last week. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)

As the region enters another week of the coronavirus crisis, protective measures have upended life for local businesses and the residents they serve.

Earlier this week, Gov. Gina Raimondo issued her strictest measures yet to fight the spread of COVID-19, closing salons, gyms and entertainment businesses and mandating a 14-day quarantine for all travelers returning to the state by air.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a “stay-at-home” advisory on Monday, closing all nonessential businesses and instructing residents not to leave the house unless necessary.

While some businesses have chosen or been forced to close their doors entirely amid the new measures, others have found creative ways to stay open while maintaining distance between customers and staff.

At Champ’s Keyway Liquors in Woonsocket, staff have begun taking orders at the front door, asking customers to wait on the sidewalk or in their cars while they retrieve items from the shelves. Owner Billy Allen said the idea was to minimize the number of people touching products or browsing the store, protecting customers and staff in the process.

“We’ve had a pretty good response to it. A lot of people seem to appreciate and like what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Other businesses, like Pepin Lumber, have continued serving customers through a window, while some restaurants, including Ciro’s Tavern, have introduced curbside pickup to minimize interactions between customers and staff.

At The Beef Barn in North Smithfield, Manager Audra Gouin said they’ve continued to see a steady demand for takeout orders, though the ban on dine-in service has forced them to cut some staff. In addition to their regular menu items, the restaurant has begun offering whole pounds of roast beef or pastrami with rolls, an option that’s proved popular for customers who want to limit their trips outside.

“Wednesday, I think was our busiest day. We sold over 40 pounds of beef, just pounds,” she said.

Many of the regular customers, she said, have continued to support the business under the new measures.

“It’s definitely not what it normally is, but we’ve had a good flow of people. Our customer base is really good,” she said.

Pete Stamatelatos, co-owner of Hercules Pizza in Slatersville, said he’s also seen a steady flow of regular customers, but business has been slow on the weekends. It’s only been a little over a year, he pointed out, since nearby businesses began to recover from the extended closure of the Stone Arch Bridge for repairs.

“There’s not a lot of movement,” he said.

The measures have been especially hard on gig workers, who rely on a regular schedule of events and clients for income. Jimmy Alger, a DJ living in Woonsocket, said he hasn’t been able to work since the emergency measures closed local bars and venues last week.

“I DJ full time for a living and since the bars are closed, I can’t work,” he said.

Like many residents, Alger has used his extra time to help others dealing with the crisis. Last week, he volunteered to make grilled cheese sandwiches in a pop-up tent outside Krakow Deli on Social Street, where the owners have offered free lunch to any children out of school.

“People come and support us. We have to help too, we have to give something,” said co-owner Marta Samek.

Among those who stopped into Krakow Deli for groceries last week was Beth Turner, a Cumberland teacher who lives in Blackstone. As she and her daughter waited for a grilled cheese sandwich outside the deli, she expressed the uncertainty facing many residents right now.

“It’s just hard not knowing how long this is going to last. It’s really the unknown is the tough part,” she said.

Brianna Sengsouvanh of Woonsocket, right, passes a takeout order to Keri Mosichuk of North Smithfield at The Beef Barn in North Smithfield last Friday. Businesses have been forced to adapt to the new measure in place due to the coronavirus.