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Stores allowed to remain open make changes for social distancing

Home improvement and gardening stores are considered essential businesses because of some of what they sell, but most have made big changes to promote public health

PORTLAND, Oregon — Home improvement and gardening stores are considered essential businesses in Oregon and Washington, because they sell important items like appliances and gardening supplies that produce food.  And there is definitely an urge in many of us to take care of home improvement needs and plant a garden, this spring especially.

But that popularity has created a need for stores to add social distancing rules to stay open safely.  Some smaller garden centers have gone to pre-order and delivery or curbside service but closed their stores to customers.  Garden Fever! in northeast Portland is one of them, where owner Lori Volmer said employees are doing a great job keeping their distance, washing their hands, and disinfecting.

“There are people coming to the back door ringing the doorbell, we peek our heads out just like it’s the Wizard of Oz,” said Vollmer. “And they tell us who they are we go get their order that’s already been paid for and ready to go.”

There are changes at the big stores too... Including Lowe's and Home Depot, where you can still shop inside. But there is now separation of six feet for those waiting out front, as they limit the number of customers. Inside you'll find safety reminder signs, and employees monitoring social distancing.  Home Depot has canceled popular springtime sales events to discourage crowds.

At Yard ‘n Garden Land in Hazel Dell the store is closed to browsing pansies or tomato plants, but loyal customers are picking up their orders in the parking lot.  The store went to delivery and parking lot pick up two weeks ago.

“I think it was a relief when we closed the doors from a safety perspective, I think; it took a load off everyone’s stress levels,” said store manager Todd Flatt. “But I think it’s going well, we just have to figure out the ins and outs."

Alan Claassen was glad they were able to provide him some Heather and other items to plant, as he, like all of us, get used to our new normal.

“But I’m appreciating how the stores are making it easier with x’s on the floor and keep a safe distance. So we’re all working together on it, it’s really important.”  

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