Chip Beltinck

Chip Beltinck, owner of Sawyer Jewelers in downtown Fenton, is struggling to keep his business going, like other small locally owned businesses during this stay-at-home order. He hopes customers return to brick-and-mortar shops to support our communities. 

 Effective Tuesday, May 26, retail businesses across Michigan will be allowed to reopen to the public. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement Thursday, May 21 at a televised press conference.

 Whitmer said all regions of Michigan are ready for another small step toward reopening. She said the number of cases and deaths have decreased in the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City vicinity. Because of that, on Monday, May 18, she lifted some restrictions to restaurants and businesses there.

 The governor’s latest executive order lifts the requirement that health care providers delay some nonessential medical, dental, and veterinary procedures statewide beginning Friday, May 29. People can arrange for elective care and surgeries as they and their doctor see fit.

 Auto dealerships can open their showrooms with limitations and social distancing, beginning May 26.

 All retail businesses can reopen on an appointment basis, with a maximum of 10 people inside the business at one time, beginning May 26.

 Veterinary services also can reopen to the public beginning May 26.

 The order authorizes small gatherings of no more than 10 people starting immediately, as long as participants practice social distancing.

 Whitmer made no mention of opening restaurants to inside dining nor salons or gyms during her press conference.

 “All of these are another positive step forward,” Whitmer. “We need to ensure these new measures are working. It takes about two weeks to assess.”

 “As businesses continue to reopen, it’s crucial that they adopt strict safety measures to protect their employees, customers, and their families,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. 

 “I know that as medical professionals begin offering nonessential procedures again, they will do everything in their power to protect patients and their families from COVID-19. I will continue to work with Governor Whitmer and our partners across Michigan to protect our families and lower the chance of a second wave.”

 Whitmer said there could be a short-term extension to the stay-at-home order, which was previously set to expire May 28 and would be making an announcement soon.

 As for Memorial Day, she said, “Be safe. Go boating. Have a beer, a burger. But, this virus is still present in Michigan.”

 Non-essential retail businesses and restaurants have been hard hit with the COVID-19 and ensuing stay-at-home order. Restaurants capable of providing take-out options have stayed open on a limited basis.

 Retail brick-and-mortar stores, such as jewelry and clothing are continuing to feel the pain of lost sales from having no customers.

 Chip Beltinck, owner of Sawyer Jewelers in the Cornerstone building in downtown Fenton is struggling to keep his business going. His store has been shut down since March 14. “We’re just trying to make it,” Beltinck said.

 With months of being forced to shop online, Beltinck worries that the convenience of that will affect all of the locally owned businesses. “We’ve got to get back to shopping locally,” he said. “We need the support and customers.” He said many people have the misconception that once the non-essential stores reopen they will be fine, but Beltinck said that would not be the case unless customers come back.

 “Once we get so far into this, the harder it will be to go back,” he said. “I’m hoping we can continue to stay in business.”

 Beltinck assures everyone that when he reopens he and all of his staff will do their due diligence with keeping the jewelry store as safe and clean as possible. He believes with fewer people in the small shops compared with big box stores, that it will be a safer environment.

 As a non-essential business, per the governor’s executive order, Beltinck believes it was unfair that they had to completely close. “We’ve been going 10 weeks without making any money,” he said.

 The PPP (paycheck protection plan) loan was very important, but “That’s not going to save us,” he said. “It was a necessary thing and I think they need to come out with more. It’s been very difficult.”

 The biggest factor to keep all of the businesses open in our towns is getting the customer back. “The consumer needs to think about that and be aware. We’ve got a great community and we need to keep our downtown,” he said.

 “We also need to get everyone back employed. There are a lot of little things we can all do.

 “It’s going to take all of us to work together.”

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