MOUNT VERNON — The rent on Packrat’s Stash is due April 5, and Kathy Hawk isn’t sure they’ll make it.
“I was hoping between then and now to make enough to pay that,” Hawk, who co-owns Packrat’s with her son, Jamie McDonald, said. “A few weeks may make the difference whether we can pay it. There’s the electric bill too, I have to pay that.”
Gov. DeWine’s order Sunday to close non-essential businesses means that thrift and variety stores like Packrat’s Stash will be closed until at least April 6. Also having to close shop are retail stores that sell jewelry, make-up and hobby items like sewing supplies.
Allowed to stay open are groceries and convenience stores, stores that sell farm and construction supplies, financial institutions including tax preparers, banks and lenders, liquor stores, hardware stores, attorney’s offices, pharmacies, auto repair shops and home appliance stores, among others.
Knox County is host to a plethora of businesses — from small, locally owned shops selling baked goods or handmade art pieces by local artists, to major company chains and factories.
Under DeWine’s order, restaurants can continue to stay open for carry-out and drive-thru business. That was a surprise to 1834 Midway Tavern owners Jason and Teresa Harter; Jason said he expected DeWine to close restaurants.
“We watched the (press conference) and as he kind of hemmed and hawed, we thought, he’s about to do it, we’re going to have to face a complete shutdown,” Jason said. “We are extremely pleased to be able to continue operating.”
The Harters have been increasing sanitation and have limited carry-out customers to a small area of the restaurant. During a free lunch giveaway Saturday for school kids, staff and volunteers were out wearing masks and gloves donated by the fire department. Jason said a lot of people who picked up lunches were wearing masks as well.
Half Baked, a bakery and cafe in downtown Mount Vernon, will remain open, but owner Navin ‘Chef Nav’ Adjohya is making adjustments to keep both his employees and the community safe.
“We’re doing everything we can possibly think of,” Adjohya said. The bakery staff increased their intervals of sanitation, are wiping surfaces between customers and are trying to prop the door open to eliminate it as a contact surface. The store is still open for to-go orders, and Adjohya said they are limiting total guests to five at a time to be compliant with the gathering restriction set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition to their normal spread of desserts, the bakery is offering free pre-packaged community meals to anyone in need, no questions asked.
“We’re all affected by this, we’re all in this together,” Adjohya said. “These are for anyone in need, everyone is welcome. We have to work together and be good to each other.”
Adjoya said curbside pick-up is in the works, as well as an offering of other pre-packaged meals he had hoped to unveil later this spring.
Many stores dubbed non-essential had already closed voluntarily before DeWine’s order. Paragraphs Bookstore in Mount Vernon closed to public browsing March 16, a week before the order was issued. The shop continued serving customers by ordering through their website, Facebook and by phone. They offered curbside and in-store pickup as well as local delivery.
Paragraphs Manager Lois Hanson said the decision was made based on what other bookshops across the country were doing due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘How can we make sure everyone is healthy?’ We were watching our customers and we were concerned by how many people were picking up books and bringing them close to their face,” Hanson said. “You can’t go and sanitize every book someone touches.”
Hanson said the staff decided to stop all ordering and close the shop entirely, and they plan to use the time to stay home and “hunker down with their families.” Staff can go in and check on inventory and conduct other necessary business.
The closure raises the worry of loss of business, but Hanson said the health issue takes precedence.
“You have to be worried, but this is a health issue. The economy will bounce back,” Hanson said.
Hanson said she will be taking the next two weeks to catch up on the stack of books that have been piling up at home and writing recommendations for when she’s back in the store, but she will miss her time in the shop.
“God, I love that store. I’ll miss choosing the absolutely right book for someone, our regulars that have become dear friends and our staff that I love so much,” Hanson said.
Packrat’s sells collectibles, antiques and some home items. Hawk describes the inventory as “you name it, we’ve got it.” The wares also include books and DVDs, something she noted would provide entertainment as people shelter in place.
Hawk said she still has a lot to do and will be in the store during the shutdown. She and Jamie are always bringing in new items and there’s a lot to unpack and get ready for display.
“I was hoping it would never come to this,” Hawk said. “I never have more than four people in the store at any time, so I was really hoping it wasn’t necessary.”