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Local shop owners taking precautions to address the risks posed by COVID-19

Jodi Summit
Posted 5/21/20

TOWER- “We knew we needed to have a plan,” said Ubetcha Antiques co-owner Victoria Meloche. “We started planning right away.”The work is paying off as both of her Tower Main …

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Open for business

Local shop owners taking precautions to address the risks posed by COVID-19

Posted

TOWER- “We knew we needed to have a plan,” said Ubetcha Antiques co-owner Victoria Meloche. “We started planning right away.”
The work is paying off as both of her Tower Main Street businesses, Ubetcha, and the adjacent thrift store, Uffda Thrifts and Gifts, planned on reopening on May 21. The two shops are now connected with a walk-through doorway after some major remodeling this fall.
Ubetcha was not considered an essential business, and the owners had actually decided to temporarily close even before the stay-at-home order was issued, due to safety concerns for both Meloche, who has had cancer, and her father-in-law Willard Carlson, who will turn 91 this summer.
Meloche said she knows many businesses aren’t being as proactive, but since she herself is immuno-compromised and still waiting for her doctor’s okay to return to work, she felt they needed to do their best to keep themselves and everyone else safe.
“The only person you can control is yourself,” she said.
Precautions being put in place include limiting the number of customers to half the regular capacity, installation of hand sanitizing and a handwashing station, installing a sneeze-guard at the single cash register now serving both stores, and a new wireless point-of-sale system.
“Our COVID-19 mitigation includes employees and customers,” she said.
Staff will be wearing masks and gloves, and high-touch and breathed-on areas will be sanitized during the day. They also purchased a UV-light sterilizing wand to use each night to sanitize and sterilize items that cannot be wiped down. They are asking any customers who do not feel well to stay away and will have a no-touch thermometer available if requested.
Customers will be asked not to linger at the cash register, but Meloche said they will be happy to visit with customers outdoors.
The coffee and cookies are gone this summer, another safety measure.
The business will have more limited hours, due to several of their vendors not being able to work because they are in high-risk groups.
“We just can’t manage being open every day,” she said.
Ubetcha and Uffda will be open Thursday through Monday, starting May 21. The Tourist Trap Flea Market, staffed by co-owner Charlie Carlson and his father Willard, will be open Friday through Monday of Memorial Day weekend, and then Fridays and Saturdays during the summer, with extended days on holidays.
Meloche said the store and their dealers have been busy restocking shelves and “freshening up” the stock.
“There is a ton of new stuff in the thrift shop, too,” she said.
The shop is not taking any new consignments right now.
“We are filled up right now,” she said, “our warehouse can’t hold anything else.”
There may be an exception or two made, she hinted, for a couple of smaller items.
“If it’s a Hamm’s sign,” she said, “we will take it!”
New this year are Ubetcha and Uffda branded T-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps.
The store is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Memorial Day weekend.
“I feel like I have pre-opening jitters,” she said, “like when we first opened.”
Now the big question is if customers will be coming.
“We can have hundreds of people come through on a busy day in July,” she said. “Now we need to limit the stores to ten customers each at a time.”
While the two have kept busy during the shut-down - Charlie has been refinishing furniture among other things - they really miss visiting with their customers.
Willard, who has made friends with just about everyone in Tower and Soudan, is also excited to be back at work. He has had a rough time socially-isolating, Meloche said. “There is no holding Willard back.”
Other Tower retail stores also now open include Jeanne’s Cards and Gifts which is open six days a week. Nordic Home North is still working on plans to reopen in the next week or two, and is waiting for some new products to arrive.

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