‘We’re just so happy to be open’

A plethora of sandwich boards dotted the sidewalks of Liberty Street Friday for the first time in weeks as many Franklin businesses were allowed to return to work.

The colorful signs denoting hours of operation and welcoming back customers weren’t the only cheerful additions to the long-quiet street. Most shop doors opened to beaming owners behind their counters or stocking racks and rearranging window displays.

“We’re just so happy to be open,” said Tammy Bible, owner of the Olive Vault.

For Bible, Friday wasn’t just a chance to get her business back open to full muster. The day also brought the unveiling of a new space that she and her husband, David, moved into during the shutdown.

“We love it,” she said smiling.

Bible said that while technically the Olive Vault never shut down since the business was able to sell items online and offer curbside pickup, it’s nice to have shoppers physically back in the store.

She noted that about 30% of her customers Friday were people out shopping just because they’d “been released.”

A few doors down, two antique shop owners stood together discussing various shades of blue with a customer looking for accents for his home.

Barbara Matthews and Priscilla Earhart, owners of Liberty Street Antiques and Antique Annie’s respectively, both said their mornings had been fairly busy but that things had kind of “died off” around 1 p.m.

By that time the weather had turned to something more suitable for the winter months, so many owners believed that might be to blame for the lack of foot traffic.

The ominous weekend forecast didn’t put a damper on their spirits, however, as many said they were hoping for more over the weekend.

But with more shoppers comes a concern over public health. The businesses say they’re prepared to take on the task of remaining open and following guidelines such as mandatory mask wear and providing hand sanitizer.

“I was actually on this side of the street to pick this up,” Earhart said as she brandished a mason jar full of “Goat Spit,” the sanitizer being produced by the Grumpy Goat Distillery.

Goat Spit was made available to any shop that needed it in time for opening Friday.

Other shops have gone the extra mile, such as a plexiglass barrier between the register and customers at the Olive Vault, and a plan for one way shopping patterns at Antique Annie’s should the amount of people who enter the store warrant the precaution, Earhart said.

“At the end of the day we want to be safe,” said Jess Carroll, the Franklin Retail and Business Association administrator.

Carroll said all the businesses that are part of the association which include most of those on Liberty Street have been brought up to speed on both state and Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“We are all really, honestly, doing the best we can,” Carroll added.

For the association, Friday was a “big day” and a positive step in the right direction to get these businesses back on their feet.

Carroll said a project entitled the Retail Relief Fund, which started almost immediately after all non-life sustaining businesses were ordered to shut down, was an overwhelming success and raised more than $16,000.

The money was all translated to retail association gift certificates which can be used in any shop that is a member of the association. Some of the certificates have been handed over to businesses and individuals and others are set to be used in giveaways and promotional events.

“We’re just so grateful…really the outpouring of community support is so humbling,” said Carroll.