DC’s reopening pilot program for small stores yields promising early results

Several small businesses that received waivers to sell their products for pickup in DC are reporting some promising signs so far. WTOP's Ken Duffy reports.

A handful of small D.C. stores were allowed to expand their sales operations this week during the pandemic under a pilot program, and the results so far are great in the eyes of owners.

Six shops, such as education and academic stores, that applied for waivers were permitted to let customers pick up their products at the curbside or front door under the Educational and Academic Retail Shops (EARS) pilot program.

The program requires customers to pre-order online or by phone because walk-ins aren’t allowed.

Myrna Sislen, who owns Middle C Music, told WTOP that everything is working well with the contactless system and reports four times as many sales since the moment the shop had to close its brick-and-mortar operations.

Sislen said they’re also gently reminding some customers, especially passerbys, to maintain social distancing.

“I think people who are not familiar with the protocol kind of thought ‘Oh, well it’s open. I’m just gonna walk in,'” Sislen sad. “So, we were very cautious and asked them to please step back, and everyone was fine.”

Until now, Steven Aarons, who owns Child’s Play Toys & Books, said the shop had been doing deliveries only and feels everything is proceeding smoothly without numerous delivery orders during the crisis.

“I had a grandmother reach out. She wanted to pick something up today because she had a newly born grandchild,” Aarons said. “In normal circumstances, we wouldn’t have been able to get that delivered until tomorrow at the earliest. But we were able to set it up that it was in her hand today.”

The city is already expanding the program to encourage other business, such as card shops and florists, to get involved.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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