The Stay Safe to Stay Open Campaign is a campaign created for local businesses across Utah, but some small businesses in Ogden don’t feel like the campaign has helped keep their businesses afloat. The campaign consists of a set of rules that a business agrees to and advertises in order to let customers know it is safe to visit their business.
According to the campaign’s website, stayopenutah.com, the rules of the campaign are “checking symptoms before work and stay home when sick, washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing including face coverings in close common areas, learning about high-risk groups and helping to protect them, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, cleaning high touch surfaces frequently and following public health guidance as updated.”
Before this campaign was introduced in late 2020, many businesses had been following these guidelines since reopening after the lockdown in March.
Robyn Stark, owner of The Queen Bee on 25th street in Ogden, said that she signed the campaign because she had already been doing everything that it consisted of.
“We do everything we can to bring business in,” Stark said. “Obviously, we’re doing everything we can to keep customers safe. Masks are required per the governor’s orders. We sanitize big touch areas.”
The Queen Bee is a chocolate shop that had samples and chocolate tasting events before the pandemic began. A bakery is connected to the shop, which allowed for more foot traffic during lunch time. Stark noted that the shop lost a lot of foot traffic when the big businesses downtown allowed their employees to work from home.
“We had a big lunch crowd that would come in, people who would stop by, have lunch, come grab a piece of chocolate, and they’re not working downtown anymore. We miss that foot traffic,” Stark said.
Stark had to stop allowing people to sample her products, which resulted in a sharp decrease in chocolate purchases. In an effort to keep her monthly chocolate tasting event going, she created an at-home option. Instead of bringing people into her shop and explaining the chocolates while they tasted them, she made a small package for people to take home to their families. When picking up the chocolates, she would explain to them the background behind each type of chocolate.
“I’m hoping someday, we’ll be out of this and we can go back to tasting chocolate in store, and all of those things,” Stark said.
For Imagine Ballet Theatre in Ogden, they had to stop teaching ballet to certain ages entirely. They stopped teaching students who are ages 3 to 4 due to their inability to wear masks.
“I don’t think people are looking for that,” said Raymond Van Mason, the Artistic Director and Founder of Imagine Ballet Theatre, about signing the campaign. “I haven’t made it necessarily overly public. We were doing all that before, and I didn’t want to make it more political than it already is.”
The ballet has struggled financially throughout the pandemic due to an inability to teach students at more than half the regular amount, and inability to perform shows that could host more than half the amount of spectators.
“The number of students has drastically dropped but the rent doesn’t drop, the heating and air conditioning doesn’t drop,” Mason said.
The theatre signed the campaign as an effort to keep their business open. “The only reason I signed it was because it was the first time I’d seen it. We had been trying to follow all that protocol, actually, since May,” Mason said.
The theatre planned on renovating an old chapel before the pandemic, but because business has decreased drastically, they had to halt all of their plans.
“I don’t have a little angel up there saying, ‘Okay, you can’t pay rent today? We’re not going to charge it to you.’ It’s not there,” Mason said.
Lena Morgan, owner of Humble Hawk, a mediumship she hosts from her home, said that her business nearly ground to a halt due to the pandemic.
“I don’t think people have as much income to spend on things that they don’t need, need necessarily,” Morgan said.
She had hopes of turning her business into her full-time career and said that she was getting close to that point before the pandemic.
Morgan’s business is usually conducted over email so she didn’t feel that she had to change anything but she did experience a decrease in clients. As a medium, she said that her main goal is to help clients commune with loved ones that have passed on.
“People will send me a question or the name of someone that’s passed, and then their photo…In a second email, they’ll send me the photo of the person who’s passed, and that’s the way I do the readings,” Morgan said.
She noticed that as 2020 progressed less and less people requested her mediumship and she experienced a sharp increase in people following her tarot card readings on social media.
“People are looking for comfort, I think,” Morgan said.
Despite her business struggling, she signed the campaign because she felt it was important. Morgan said that she was much more comfortable going into businesses with signage saying that they were keeping COVID-19 cleanliness standards and she was more likely to enter those buildings rather than ones without signage.
“I prefer to go into places that do have that signage because I’m a hypochondriac and I don’t like any of this at all,” Morgan said.
She felt that the Stay Safe to Stay Open Campaign could benefit from better advertisement.
“I think they could do, not a better job, but make it more seen and visible and understood. That’s a thing that companies are trying to do,” Morgan said.
All three of these businesses expressed concern towards the future of the pandemic. Morgan was concerned that her business would not get more clients. Mason and Stark were worried about having to shut their businesses down again. All three expressed that they would do everything they could to keep customers feeling safe while in their store.