On Small Business Saturday, shoppers balance safety concerns with support for local retailers

  • Don Reed, 62, of Fairlee, holds the door open for Tom Hough and Blakeney Bartlett, also of Fairlee. Reed was exiting and Hough and Bartlett were entering Chapman's Store in Fairlee, Vt., which was experiencing steady business on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Angela Doyle, 50, of Lakeville, Mass., said she plans to do much of her shopping at local stores after coming out of Farm-Way in Bradford, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Andy Stevenson, 34, of Fairlee, did some shopping at Chapman's Store in Fairlee on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. Stevenson is a teacher at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2020 5:24:34 PM
Modified: 11/28/2020 5:24:23 PM

FAIRLEE — Trevor Lohr lives in an apartment above Chapman’s Store, so naturally, he shops there from time to time, mainly for wine and bagels.

Saturday morning, he expressed some of the mixed feelings that he and many others have about holiday shopping as the number of coronavirus cases rises.

“Shopping in person is conflicting,” he said. He wants to support his community, but “I believe the virus is real. The surge is a concern.”

With holiday shopping underway, both Chapman’s Store and Farm-Way in Bradford, Vt., were busy places Saturday, with a steady flow of customers. Standing outside a local store talking to shoppers means you’re likely to encounter people who support their local shops. But hardly anyone committed to that support without reservations.

“It’s a balance, right? We want to ensure that our community is safe, and yet the vitality of our small businesses is important,” said Sarah Rinehimer, 38, of West Fairlee, who was at Chapman’s with her 16-year-old son Lyle. “I think Chapman’s is a great example of a business that is taking the virus seriously.”

That’s the case, said Aletta Traendly, owner of Chapman’s, which has been in her family since 1927. She disinfects the shop morning and evening, and no one is admitted without a mask, a rule that led to only one longtime customer slamming the door after storming out. Her granddaughter Harper Traendly, 12, was working with her on Saturday.

“I do have people who call me ahead of time and ask, ‘Are you busy?’ ” Aletta Traendly said. She provides hours for people who want to come in when they can be assured of plenty of space.

Black Friday often features a crush of people coming in for items on sale, Traendly said, but she didn’t see that this year, partly by design. Jewelry is on sale this weekend, and other items will have their own sale days, to try to keep the crowds thinner but more consistent.

“That’s what made sense to me,” Traendly said.

Don Reed, 62, of Fairlee, stopped in for a couple of bagels — one plain, one everything. He considers himself a frequent Chapman’s customer, and plans to shop locally. “I try to do that as much as I can,” he said.

The ease of online shopping can be hard to overcome. Andy Stevenson, 34, of Fairlee, said he stopped by Chapman’s for a few things because he was tired of seeing Amazon boxes. But with a 3-week-old baby at home, having essentials delivered makes sense.

“This is probably it for me,” Stevenson said of the bag he held, containing a few presents and much coffee. “None of our family expects a lot from us,” said Stevenson, who teaches at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee.

Some showed up out of a sense of loyalty.

“I’m super-apprehensive, but you know, I’ve been coming here a long time,” said Bill McLaughry, 63, of Orford, who was Christmas shopping. “I also feel an obligation to the merchants.” Without public support, they don’t survive, he said.

While Chapman’s is a small, mainly local store, Farm-Way is big and regional, selling everything from fencing to boots, animal feed to firearms and ammo.

“I think we’re doing some of both,” said Ian Sawyer, of Walpole, N.H., speaking of shopping in person and online.

Sawyer and his parents, Joseph and Sonia, had traveled up to Farm-Way from Walpole. Joseph had a big bag of birdseed under his arm. They buy online only when they can’t find what they need locally, Joseph said.

“Especially around here, people are being pretty careful,” he said.

Angela Doyle, 50, of Lakeville, Mass., on the South Shore, owns a gymnastics facility in her home state and said she plans to patronize local businesses.

“My biggest concern is the economy, so I support shopping locally,” said Doyle, who was in Bradford to celebrate Thanksgiving with her in-laws. She’s been running her own business at less than half capacity, to balance safety with the need to break even, she said.

“I’ve been trying to stay on my hill as much as possible,” said Kate Goyette, 39, who raises pigs and makes maple sugar in Corinth. Local businesses, including Farm-Way, will do curbside pickup, she said. “We’re trying to stay away from Amazon.”

Bonnie Swift, of Plainfield, stopped at Farm-Way for wool socks for her husband and birdseed. “I think it’s fabulous to support local businesses,” she said, but they’re not planning to shop for the holidays.

“This year, pretty much we’re going to be making donations to food banks on behalf of relatives,” she said. Her son suffered a house fire in Virginia, so she’ll send him what she can.

“People are hurting, and I think it’s going to get worse,” she said.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

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