As North Carolina has moved into Phase 2, some Chapel Hill and Carrboro thrift stores have reopened for business — but it won't be business as usual, as shops work to maintain limited operations and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Rumors Boutique on Graham Street reopened in mid-May, close to the the beginning of Phase 1, after closing its storefront in March. Casey Longyear, the co-owner of Rumors, ran the store entirely on Instagram for the two months it was closed.
“I did have to close a little bit before most places closed down, just because we have so many groups of young people coming in and it was just so risky to be open, it didn't feel safe at all,” Longyear said. “So we closed, and I ran our Instagram every day by myself selling as much as I could off of that.”
Rumors has made several adjustments according to social distancing guidelines, including limiting its store capacity to 10 people in the store at a time including staff, requiring face masks for all customers and employees, closing fitting rooms and only buying clothing for store credit, not cash.
Longyear says customers have so far been supportive and happy to follow the rules, and she’s planning on maintaining social distancing in the store for a while.
She also said she’d like to extend their current hours of 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. back to full hours, but doesn’t have enough people who can work right now to make that happen.
“People are honestly probably buying more than they usually do,” Longyear said. “I think they like the personal shopping experience. Before, if you came to Rumors over the weekend you had to be prepared to have a little anxiety attack because there were so many people, and now that's not the case and you have time to look around and explore on your own.”
Surplus Sid’s in Carrboro is also open, according to owner Sid Keith, who said there was some initial confusion in regard to when his store could actually reopen.
“I essentially am just tooth and nail down here,” Keith said. “Nobody could give me a definitive answer whether I was an essential business or not because I have protective gear and that type of thing that we sell in here, so finally I closed up for the month of April and opened up May 7.”
Keith said online summer school has decreased the number of students who would usually buy surplus furniture pieces from him while moving off-campus for summer sessions, but he has seen more customers looking for camping gear or outdoor equipment during the period of social distancing.
“We’re just using common-sense measures is all. My motto has always been — I’ve been through Y2K here, all the Mayan calendar nonsense and such — ‘You can survive any catastrophic situation with a minimum amount of discomfort with a small amount of preparedness.’” he said. “We persevere, we adapt and overcome and try to see what people need.”
The Durham Rescue Mission’s thrift store on Chapel Hill Boulevard is open from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Store manager Steve Blake said regular business was slow at first, but has since started to pick up, although the store is still being careful about social distancing.
Although these local thrift stores have reopened under Phase 2, some continue to be closed.
CommunityWorx, formerly PTA Thrift Shop, is currently closed, but their website says they plan to reopen their stores on June 19. The stores are currently accepting donations at both the Chapel Hill and Carrboro locations on Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Donations are limited to small furniture and boxed or bagged items.
The Scrap Exchange’s Scrap Thrift store in Durham is closed, but open for online shopping with curbside pickup Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., according to its website. The store is not currently accepting donations. Club Nova Thrift Shop in Carrboro remains closed indefinitely.
Regardless of the risk reopening may pose, Longyear said it is a relief to be able to serve customers in person again.
“I sold enough to pay all the bills and stay up to date, so it went really well, but it was over two months of myself working every day from when I woke up to when I went to sleep, and it definitely wore me out,” Longyear said. “Opening was a huge weight off my shoulders just because I didn’t have to do it alone anymore.”
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