‘Brick and mortar to brick and order:’ One Rockville retailer’s reopening strategy

As much of Maryland went into Phase Two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus recovery plan, Montgomery County remains in Phase One and its government issued “additional guidance” for businesses on reopening and recovery.

“We know that businesses are finding themselves in unprecedented territory,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

The county’s website had Elrich’s statement, and the executive said: “Our goal with this document is to make the reopening process as straightforward as possible.”

Earlier in the day, Montgomery County Council President Sidney Katz, whose family founded a store in Gaithersburg more than 100 years ago, held an online chat with Chaya Cagri, owner of The Cottage Monet, a boutique in Rockville, and Leonard Howie, CEO of WorkSource Montgomery and the former Labor Secretary of Maryland.

Cagri, who employs 7 people to help run her shop, said she would love to have them all back in the store, but as Montgomery County remains in Phase One, they have opted to wait a while longer before returning to their jobs, Cagri said.

She also said several had other reasons for waiting to come back on the job.

“Frankly, their unemployment insurance payment is greater than their salary,” and Cagri said she had no problem with that, “because they have to look to the future.”

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While retailers can offer curbside pickup, Cagri said for a business like hers, where shoppers want to get an up close look at the merchandise, that’s a real disadvantage.

So while her shop shifts from “brick and mortar to brick and order,” as she likes to say, she works hard to help people on line and over the phone.

Her boutique is a go-to spot for many residents looking for a unique or very personal gift.

Cagri said that when it comes to finding just the right present: “You give me a budget, I can put my finger on it and get it ready and shipped out to you in no time.”

Howie said that even as Montgomery County businesses have had to make dramatic adjustments because of the coronavirus, some sectors are hiring; including larger retailers who need staff to make curbside service possible, and the tech sector.

“Health care, some of the fiber-related areas, they are definitely hiring right now,” Howie said.

To make his point, Howie noted the virtual meeting in which he was participating was dependent on technology.

Visit here to look at Montgomery County’s status in Phase One.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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