Businesses across Kentucky are reopening with safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A music store in Somerset is one of the thousands of businesses across the Bluegrass State adapting to the new reality.
Josh Parker enjoys demonstrating one of the most popular guitars at the shop he owns in Somerset, Earl Brooke’s Piano and Music Center.
“It's a Yamaha Transacoustic, just due to the fact that it’s an acoustic guitar, and it’s actually acoustic electric, so you can play acoustic or you can plug it into an amp," said Parker, who has owned the music store for about a year.
Parker has recorded an album of instrumental acoustic guitar, and he loves to give people a chance to hear an instrument they might want to play, or learn to play.
He said a lot of people interested in musical instruments and audio gear showed up at his store over the Memorial Day weekend.
“Saturday was enormous, probably one of the biggest single days since around Christmas, as far as sales numbers," said Parker. "I think on Saturday, we sold probably four keyboards and indoor digital pianos, and then a bunch of guitars. I think we sold about five or six guitars, and then a lot of strings, cables, accessories. That’s a big part of our stock, as well.”
During the time businesses in Kentucky were shut down due to the pandemic, the music store made sales via curbside pick-up by appointment.
Parker, who has a degree in business from Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, said preparing for the reopening of his shop during a pandemic was not business as usual.
“First of all, we have a sign up on the front of the door, kind of giving notice for people to wear masks and to try to maintain six feet," said Parker. "Our store layout, too, is pretty open and spacious. We can see the whole showroom even from our counter, where the guitars are laid out, and the pianos in the back, so we get to keep an eye on everything.”
Then there’s another basic precaution.
“We’ve loaded up on an insane amount of hand sanitizer for us, and also we’re going to try to keep a pump out for the customers, as well,” he said.
In this era of coronavirus, Parker said businesses have to closely manage payments at the register.
“We really try to clean the credit card machine a lot because that’s something that people touch, the buttons all the time, so that’s one thing we’ve been really cautious about,” he said.
While health precautions during this time of the virus apply to all businesses, Parker said musical instruments require special attention.
“It’s a bit tricky with guitars, 'cus if you wipe the fret boards and wood on these things, sometimes it can cause issues. We’ve done a little wiping with polishing cleaner that Dunlop does, and we try to wipe them down a little bit with microfiber cloths," said Parker. "And something we’ve been talking we’re going to try to do our best, as well, to have people wash their hands before and after they use guitars.”
Parker’s music store is among many small businesses in the Somerset region now welcoming customers who are eager to leave the isolation of their homes and go shopping.
Bobby Clue, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, said the organization has nearly 900 members, and about 75 percent of those have 10 or fewer employees. Clue said businesses are making adjustments to follow safety guidelines as they reopen.
"Even though certain restaurants, obviously, they can only establish about 30 percent, or 33 percent capacity on dining-in right now, from what we could tell, everything was completely full to capacity with waiting lines," said Clue. "A lot of small businesses were very busy, and they seem very happy with the results of the past few days."
Clue said the reopening of businesses in the region has been going even better than anticipated.
"In all honesty, it’s good to just have these guys open again,'' he said. "I think everybody’s excited to be reopened, and you know, start having some income come back into their businesses again.”
But while many business owners and shoppers are glad to have life finally seem a little more normal, public health officials are warning people not to become lax about precautions, like social distancing and wearing masks.
Health care leaders are reminding the public that COVID-19 has not gone away, but remains a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease. COVID-19 has so far claimed the lives of about 400 people in Kentucky and nearly 100,000 across the U.S.