Antique store's future uncertain after complaint from Las Vegas
Seven weeks ago, Governor Steve Sisolak closed non-essential businesses over coronavirus concerns. Some are adapting to a new curbside service model. But an antique store in Gardnerville is looking for a path forward after an anonymous complaint shut them down.
In Gardnerville, traffic on U.S. 395 is starting to pick back up. Many stores are opening for business, either discreetly with enhanced safety measures in place, or through curbside service.
But for Cheshire Antiques, the sign says closed, and not by choice.
“Somebody in Vegas had put in a complaint,” Karen Campbell, owner of the store said.
Karen and her husband Richard have owned the store for 15 years. They rent space to about 50 different vendors and business had been doing well. That is until the coronavirus closures brought everything to a screeching halt.
“We were hoping this might go on for a month,” Richard said. “And we're thinking well maybe we can get through a month. Now we're moving into two months. We've got to do something. It's getting desperate."
The bills haven’t stopped coming. In fact, rent was just due for the second time without income coming in. There’s also the mortgage on the house and other bills to pay. So at the end of April, they decided to take a risk and open back up.
“We had heard that there might be warnings, and maybe $1,000 fine,” Karen said, “So that's the risk we were going to take."
That decision was based on a number of factors. Many of the vendors who rent booths in their store are retired and need the supplemental income. There was also frustration over watching big box stores be allowed to sell non-essential items, like furniture and clothing. Items they have in their store, but aren’t allowed to sell.
“If [the box stores are] allowed, they have the right to sell those items, why don't we?” Karen asked. “If [people] can buy clothes, or they can buy furniture, why can't we sell it?"
So for a few days they did just that. Karen says there were never large crowds at one time in the store, and there’s a bottle of hand-sanitizer greeting people as soon as they walk in. She said with 1,200 square feet of retail space, they felt there would be enough room for ample social distancing.
At the time of publishing, there are only four active cases of the virus in Douglas County.
Both Richard and Karen say the community, for the most part, was supportive of their decision to open. But that complaint from Las Vegas brought an investigator from the Attorney General’s office into their store and they were told to shut down.
“He said that if we don't comply, they will press charges and take us to court,” Karen said.
But with other non-essential businesses open, the Campbell's wondered why they were singled out.
“He said we're aware of these other non-essential businesses but nobody's complaining about them. We're only going after the ones with complaints.”
So they complied. They turned their open sign to closed.
The Attorney General’s Office declined to go into details on the decision, only releasing this statement to KOLO 8 News Now:
Now, the Campbell's are working on a way to do curbside service. But that’s not an easy task for a business with hundreds of thousands of unique items. They have used social media to highlight some of the more unique items, but the majority of their sales come from people browsing and buying things on impulse and they don’t know how much longer they can hold on.
“Kind of holding our breath right now, hoping that things open up soon,” Richard said. “I mean, we're really on the edge. I mean, it's been a long time with no sales. It's a tough road to do that, but we're going to try our best. Anything we can do to bring any income in here but I don't know how long we can hold out. It's getting really tight.”
Some of their vendors have given them notice that they will have to leave. Others are still paying rent, for now.
The Campbell's feel scared and frustrated, and they say the lack of compassion for the rural counties from the governor is hard to take.
“He's looking through a lens of Las Vegas and he has not been looking at these little towns, these little areas in Nevada that, you know, we can do it,” Richard said.
Richard believes people who are sick or scared should stay home, but that the governor should let local counties and businesses decide how they move forward.
But until they hear otherwise, they will do the best they can to keep a positive mindset and not think about what could happen should the stay-at-home directive extend past May 15.
“It's a truth we don't want to look at right now,” Karen said. “We're trying to be positive and plugged in. Just plug ahead.”