On their way to Costco in Lancaster on Friday morning, Harry and Michelle Morrow of Sinking Spring stopped for breakfast sandwiches and coffee at New Holland Coffee Co. in New Holland.
“Wonderful,” Michelle Morrow said when asked how it felt to actually sit and eat at a restaurant.
On previous shopping trips to Lancaster, Harry Morrow said the couple was forced to find alternatives to eating at restaurants.
That’s because the county was under the “red” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan since March 27, which meant most restaurants that remained open could only offer takeout.
That changed Friday when the county officially made the move to the “yellow” phase, which allows large gatherings of up to 25 people, in-person retail and outdoor dining at restaurants and bars.
Until Friday, the Morrows had to get creative with their outdoor dining plans.
“We’ve been improvising and eating out of the back of my SUV, so this is a real treat to be able to sit down,” Harry Murrow said of the stop at the coffee shop, where business was steady Friday morning.
Owner Mark Fisher said the shop’s roughly 20 outside seats were full right away in the morning.
“It feels different. I feel the energy,” said Fisher, who noted his downtown Lancaster location also busy Friday morning.
The New Holland coffee shop was one of several places in the county that LNP | LancasterOnline reporters visited Friday to get residents’ and business owners’ takes on the county’s official move to yellow.
Here’s what they had to say:
Ephrata Borough — ‘I’m so sick of cooking’
After a morning of stopping at garage sales, visiting Green Dragon and browsing at some newly reopened shops in downtown Ephrata, Kimberly Goshert and Holly Harting enjoyed an early lunch at the Dutchmaid Deck.
The mother and daughter had one of the first reservations when the outdoor dining restaurant along Route 272 reopened at 11 a.m.
“I’m so sick of cooking,” Harting said. “And my husband is sick of my cooking, too.”
While the rain held off for their lunch, which was over by noon, Goshert said she wouldn’t have minded getting wet. “Even if it were to spritz a little it would be OK because we’re out, and we’re free again,” she said.
Nearby, Gary Shirker said it felt “pretty darn good” to eat at a restaurant again.
“It’s better than being at home, that’s for sure,” he said
Jan Minnich, one of the owners of the Dutchmaid Deck, said it felt good to host customers again after so long.
“It was kind of surreal for three months, but now just looking at this, this is natural,” he said.
On the western edge of Ephrata, Dean and Donna Painter, were enjoying a working lunch with pizza and beer at St. Boniface Brewing Co., which has eight tables outside next to its brewpub. The Millersville couple, who both work from home, were grateful to be able to eat out at a restaurant after staying home for so long.
“We were kind of stir crazy because we’ve been stuck inside for a long period of time,” Dean Painter said. “But it’s time to figure it out, and support the businesses.”
— Chad Umble | Staff Writer
East Lampeter Township — ‘Retail therapy’
At Tanger Outlets on Lincoln Highway East, where 14 of 67 stores reopened Friday, shoppers were excited to have a chance to give themselves a little bit of long-awaited “retail therapy,” so to speak.
“Whatever we see open, we’re going in,” said Sam McNair, 63, of New Castle, Delaware. McNair was joined on the excursion by his wife, son and grandson.
McNair said his family makes the 75-minute drive to Tanger Outlets “all the time,” usually to go shopping, but this time “just to get out.”
Larry Walker, 62, of Chicago, who was in Lancaster for a stay at the R3 House addiction recovery center on South Prince Street, went shopping downtown and at Tanger to buy presents for his wife of 25 years, Laurie.
She’s at home recuperating from open-heart surgery. The couple recently sold their used-car dealership and retired. Walker was joined on the outing by his R3 House roommate.
“We’ve been looking forward to this,” said Walker. “We’re really enjoying it,” as they headed into the Old Navy Outlet.
Other Tanger stores that reopened today are American Eagle | Aerie, Banana Republic Factory, Bleacher Bums, Columbia Factory Store, Fragrance Outlet, Francesca’s, Gap Outlet, Haggar, Lancaster Harley Davidson, Rack Room Shoes, River Street Sweets | Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, SAS Shoes and The Uniform Outlet.
— Tim Mekeel | Staff Writer
Columbia Borough — 'Everyone is excited’
Shortly before 10 a.m., a man used a push broom to move water out of a lot along Walnut Street in Columbia Borough, before leading the way into a nearby store, Burning Bridge Antiques Market, where he’s a vendor.
Inside, manager Cindie Coleman, readied the store for its first opening since mid-March, when COVID-19 shutdown rules took effect.
“It was like we were living in an actual sci-fi movie,” she said remembering her fears and uncertainty after shuttering the business, where 200 vendors sell goods to customers. “We lost thousands of dollars.”
Still, Coleman said, the business’s ownership wanted to follow the rules, remaining closed until Gov. Wolf announced they could reopen — an announcement they’d been eagerly waiting for.
Coleman spoke in the minutes before the store’s reopening, guessing the day would be busy and that customers would be eager to return, too.
“I think people want to go back to normal,” she said.
With that said, Coleman made another admission as she stood behind a Plexiglas cough guard, her face covered with a mask.
“I’m nervous because I don’t know what to expect,” she said.
A few blocks away at Hinkle’s Restaurant on Locust Street owners —Tom Davis, Robin Ortman and John Sipe — said they faced uncertainty, too.
Since the mid-March shutdown, the owners have had to contend with employee layoffs, confusing guidance from government officials and concern for their regular customers’ health. That’s all while business dropped as much as 90% without any change to the restaurant’s overhead costs.
“We were sick to our stomachs,” Ortman said. “It’s very frustrating. We are trying to run a business.”
Friday’s yellow-phase reopening allowed restaurant servers to tend to diners at outside seating areas, where only takeout food services were allowed before.
Hinkle’s outdoor tables — purchased specially for Friday — were filling up well before noon. Regular customers filled a few.
“I’m so happy to see they are doing well,” Ortman said.
Among the diners, Carolyn Myers and Dorothy Dixon sat, reading over menus while waiting for a server.
“It seems so weird sitting here like this,” Myers said.
Myers, whose been isolated due to the pandemic, said she learned about the restaurant opening from Dixon, but at first, she didn’t believe her.
“I said, ‘No they’re actually setting up outside,’” Dixon said. “It’s great.”
Across Locust Street, Laurie Myers-Newman had setup outside, too. She’s the owner of Café 301, which shut down altogether for three weeks during the pandemic, offering takeout at other times.
The loss of revenue was scary, she said, pausing occasionally to tend to a customer as she spoke. Myers-Newman said she expects business to pick up in the coming days and into summer.
“Everyone is excited to start coming into these places again,” she said, later pointing out that she was smiling behind her mask.
— Sean Sauro | Staff Writer
Manheim Township — ‘Take a chance’
The Fruitville Pike shopping center was bustling, as Michaels, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Fine Wine & Good Spirits reopened their doors Friday, joining Target (which has remained open as a life-sustaining business due to its grocery offerings) and Whole Foods (which also remained open).
As at Park City, more retailers will follow suit in the near future. Finch Jewelers, Yealy Eye Care and Norman’s Hallmark are set to open today, said Kevin Lahn, executive vice president of Waters Retail Group, which manages the property.
PJ Whelihan’s, Harvest Seasonal Grill and PF Chang’s will open for outside dining next weekend, he said.
Again, customers were excited to walk into the stores, even when they discovered by accident that they were open.
Brendaliz Bonilla, 23, of Lancaster, had called the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store earlier that morning to place an order for pickup, only to learn the store (as well as all 18 others in the county) had opened.
She was happy to hear it. “It’s a little bit easier to get what I want, instead of trying to describe it over the phone,” Bonilla explained.
Kristen Murphy, also 23, of Millersville, was heading to Target when she noticed the cars parked in front of the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store. She too prefers to shop the store in-person.
Similar to Murphy, Stephanie Legenstein was “just out driving around” when she decided “to take a chance” and drive by Michaels to see if it had reopened Friday. She was pleasantly surprised to see that it had.
Being in the market for decorations for a high-school graduation party for her daughter Hailey, Legenstein, 42, of Lancaster, preferred to see the products in person rather than rely on the online depictions and order them for pickup.
Her best find was a cake stand. Not only was it on sale for an astounding 90% off, it was yellow – one of the school colors of Lancaster Catholic High School, where Hailey attended.
— Tim Mekeel | Staff Writer
Lancaster city — ‘Feels a little more lively’
Sheets of Plexiglas hung around the checkout counter Friday afternoon in The Spice & Tea Exchange along West Orange Street in Lancaster city, where masked employees waited for customers for the first time since mid-March.
It’s been three months of losses, said owner Judy Gitomer.
“We lost a lot,” Gitomer said.
Even so, Gitomer said she understood the need to close her store’s doors – a move that allowed her to keep both her employees and customers safe from a potentially deadly respiratory illness.
On Friday, Gitomer said she was excited to be a part of the lawful yellow-phase reopening. (Thirteen Republican federal, state and county elected officials wrote a letter to Wolf on Mother’s Day telling him the county was making the move to yellow on May 15.)
Her employees were happy to be back, too, despite the fact that there wasn’t much customer turnout by noon.
“It seemed like everybody was ready for it,” she said.
There weren’t many customers at Zanzibar on West King Street either, according to owner Steve Puffer. But Puffer expected that. He pointed to lingering fears about COVID-19, as well as ongoing protests downtown, where groups have gathered to call for criminal justice reform after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by police in Minneapolis.
Still, Puffer said he was glad his boutique could reopen, albeit with reduced hours.
“It was really tough,” he said, talking about lost profits.
But despite those losses, Puffer said his aim was to remain lawful, following state health officials’ advice and staying closed until they said it was OK to reopen.
The same wasn’t true everywhere in Lancaster, where some businesses, including Details on North King Street, had letters posted on their doors, informing customers that they’d been open since May 19 in defiance of state stay-at-home orders. At Details, “new protocols were in place” to keep customers and staff “healthy,” the sign read.
A few blocks away, Café One Eight on West Orange Street was open to customers, who sat inside, eating and drinking – a practice that isn’t allowed even during the yellow-phase reopening. Café One Eight’s owners could not immediately be reached.
Outdoor seating is allowed, and tables and chairs were placed outside of places like the Lancaster Central Market and The Tap Room on West King Street. About lunchtime, diners filled a few of them.
A few minutes later, county residents Kim Holland and Kelly Herr walked along a sidewalk on North Queen Street, talking about how they’ve been looking forward to visiting thrift stores after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
Already, Holland said, downtown foot traffic seemed to have increased.
“It just feels a little more lively,” Holland said.
— Sean Sauro | Staff Writer
A half-dozen women waited outside Park City’s J.Jill store shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, eager for the doors to open for the first time since mid-March.
Carol Weaver, 70, of Ephrata, got an email from the women’s clothing store earlier this week, alerting her to its reopening. After nearly three months of staying at home, except for trips to the supermarket and pharmacy, she was thrilled to get the news.
“I was very happy to see that,” she said. “I am so ready to get out. I am so ready for this.”
Amy Miller, 52, of York, echoed that sentiment.
“I just want a day out, on my own, a day of normalcy,” said Miller, a mother of three who teaches fifth grade in the Eastern York School District.
Miller got the heads-up from the store via a phone call. “I thought, why not? I finished school yesterday so this is a little celebration.”
J.Jill was among four stores at the county’s biggest retailer destination to reopen Friday, joining Lenscrafters, DSW and Ashley Furniture (open by appointment only), said Rachel Gallagher, the mall’s senior general manager.
The wave will continue in the days ahead. Today, Boscov’s — the county’s largest department store — reopens. Monday, Williams Sonoma will reopen (by appointment only) and other retailers will begin to offer curbside pickup, as six of the mall’s restaurants, Starbucks and Nissley Vineyards do already.
Next, women’s clothier Versona, a new tenant filling the former Banana Republic space, will debut Thursday.
Gallagher pointed out that only stores with exits/entrances that connect directly outdoors can reopen under the yellow phase. Stores with exits/entrances that connect to the mall can’t, which prevents many of Park City’s 150 tenants from reopening for now.
— Tim Mekeel | Staff Writer
Lititz Borough — ‘Fantastic’
Rita and Gary Garson, owners of Candyology in Lititz were requiring masks and asking customers to use hand sanitizer as they walked in the candy shop on Main Street Friday. They also had Plexiglas at the checkout and marked out safe distancing for customers.
Rita Garson said it was “fantastic” to be open again.
“For a Thursday it’s done well,” Gary Garson said.
“Today is Friday,” his wife reminded.
“Friday. That’s what I mean. I don’t know what day it is,” he said.
While business was brisk on the first day the shop has been open for customers since mid-March, Gary Garson said a big concern for the future is the cancellation of major summer events in Lititz, such as the Fourth of July celebration and the Lititz Rotary Arts and Crafts Show, which typically bring thousands of potential customers into town.
“That really worries us,” he said. “That’s the one thing we’re going to take a hit on. All the shops are.”
Yet, Rita Garson said she was optimistic about the enduring appeal of their products.
“Candy is the one thing that is recession proof,” she said. “If people didn’t have a job or a whole lot of money, they would still get something to keep their children happy.”
— Chad Umble | Staff Writer
Manheim Borough — ‘It’s been a good response’
While Prussian Street Arcade had offered some limited appointment-only shopping during the mandated business closures, Friday was the first day in nearly three months customers were allowed to browse the vendor marketplace in Manheim.
Michael Ferrari, who owns Prussian Street Arcade with his wife, Susan, said that by late afternoon it was shaping up as what would have been a typical weekday before COVID-19.
“It’s been a good response. I will expect the weekend will be stronger,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Saturday and Sunday and the weekends coming up.”
Ferrari said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of the business, which has only been open since November.
“We’re feeling hopeful, we’re feeling positive about where things are headed,” he said “I think we feel that if we survive this transition, we’re looking forward to a period of growth and innovation and new ideas of how we can serve customers.”
— Chad Umble | Staff Writer
The Shops at Rockvale — ‘Really looking forward to this’
Seventeen of the nearly 50 stores at Rockvale on Lincoln Highway East reopened Friday.
Turning the lights back on were Alfred Dunner, Christmas Tree Hill, Cigar Cigars, Coleman Factory Outlet, Direct Tools Factory Outlet, Factory Sofa & Mattress Outlet, Fan Cave, Generations of Furniture, Janie & Jack, Kirkland’s, Nissley Wine Shop, Peddler’s Alley, Perfume Unlimited & Colognes, Rackroom Shoes, Rainbow Shop, Reading China & Glass and Vitamin World.
Greg Conn, 49, a Lancaster city resident who works from home as a web developer for Sarah Lawrence College, was grateful for an excuse to leave the house.
“I was really looking forward to this. I have not been getting out,” said Conn, joined by his wife Sarah, 40, a homemaker, and children Ben, 23, Rachel, 10, and Joanna, 8.
While the family also was out because it needed to buy some items at the store, Conn said they were further motivated by a desire to contribute some badly needed revenue to retailers who’ve been idled for nearly three months.
“It’s nice to be able to support local business,” he said.
— Tim Mekeel | Staff Writer