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Some Stores Reopen, Some Stores Remain Closed In Phase Two Of Mass. Plan03:34
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A prospectve patron attempts to open the front door of Central Square Florist in Cambridge, which is not open for in-store or curbside business, but only for contactless delivery, now that the COVID-19 restrictions for some non-essential businesses in Massachusetts have been lifted. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A prospectve patron attempts to open the front door of Central Square Florist in Cambridge, which is not open for in-store or curbside business, but only for contactless delivery, now that the COVID-19 restrictions for some non-essential businesses in Massachusetts have been lifted. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Retail shops in Massachusetts are now reopening. Well, some of them.

Bookstores, clothing shops and other retailers were allowed to open their doors to customers Monday under the state's reopening plan. But some stores are remaining closed, while others are hopeful customers will return.

That was the case in Central Square in Cambridge, where many stores still had their lights off. Some even had signs directing people to their online stores. And many of the shops that were open had cut back their operating hours.

One store with reduced hours was Seven Stars bookstore on Massachusetts Avenue, where longtime customer Jade Lu burst through the door Monday afternoon.

"Finally!" Lu said as she entered the store. "I've been stalking you guys for weeks. Oh my god."

Lu came in to buy some sage, which Seven Stars sells along with a wide array of crystals, gemstones and books. She said it feels good to shop here again.

"Just being able to be in the same space as other human beings, and being able to talk and just be normal again — it's everything," Lu said.

A few more customers came into the shop, including Erickson Brito who bought some stones.

"This is something I've been needing for a long time, and I couldn't buy it because everywhere was closed. But I'm very glad places are open," Brito said. "And it's nice outside. It's gonna bring a good environment and a positive outcome."

Seven Stars owner Stuart Weinberg hopes for a positive outcome. He's run the business for over 30 years and thinks his unique inventory will bring back customers — now that he's open again.

"I think people have to decide how much discretionary money they have to spend on non-essentials. So that's where all these businesses will be at," Weinberg said. "I think quality always wins in the end. And we're hoping we're in that side of the equation."

Weinberg said he had some reasonable sales on day one.

But things were much quieter a couple blocks away at Custom Eyes — except for the steady stream of classical music playing in the store.

Custom Eyes sells eyeglasses and contacts, and also does eye exams. Store owner Kevork Tinkjian said they had no sales Monday.

"They're calling. They're making appointments. We're hoping next week it gets a little better," Tinkjian said through a plexiglass shield installed in front of the register.

He said the phased reopening plan is good for public safety. Custom Eyes was allowed to do telehealth for emergencies, but Tinkjian said the business took a huge hit — he said he's lost 90% of it during the pandemic.

Dr. Kathleen Murphy, the optometrist there, said customers likely have to adjust to being able to go back out again. Murphy said "it's all about trust," and she thinks customers will start coming back once they're more aware of the extra safety measures retailers have to implement.

"I think people really need to feel comfortable leaving their houses. We've been inside for so long," Murphy said. "I read that it takes like 30 days to start a habit. And people are so used to staying home, they're going to have to break that habit now. So it'll be very anxiety ridden, I think, when they first leave their houses and are out in public again."

And many retailers expect that will be slow process.

This segment aired on June 9, 2020.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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