Small businesses in Huntsville worry about impact of coronavirus stay at home order

The list prohibits businesses who only sell non-essential items from being open, but some people think it's giving big box stores a loophole.

Posted: Apr 9, 2020 7:20 PM

After getting several complaints about small businesses taking the brunt of Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay at home order.

WAAY 31 took their concerns to the city of Huntsville. Some business owners are upset because they’re forced to close while big box stores that sell some of the same items are able to stay open because they also sell essentials like groceries, guns or alcohol.

John Hamilton, city administrator, said Thursday the legal department at City Hall is working with businesses to help them interpret the stay at home order, and if they're allowed to open, have to close, or can offer delivery. The city said it's a case by case basis.

Rachel Wesson owns Envy boutique in Huntsville. Her store’s offering customers curbside delivery for purchases made online or over the phone since they can't come inside her store.

"It's sad when I'm out grocery shopping and I see someone looking at clothes and at a grocery store or a big box store. I realize I want to be helping you, I'd love to have your business, and I just can't be open for that," she said.

Wesson said her boutique has been open for nearly 15 years, and right now her sales are down about 90% compared to before coronavirus.

WAAY 31 took the concerns of Wesson and other small business owners to the city since big box stores that sell the same things can still have customers inside.

"I've heard those same frustrations that you mentioned in your question, and understand that, but a store that is both grocery and other items, it's not really possible to segregate them in some cases but our legal department is working those case by case," said Hamilton.

Other states, such as Vermont, issued orders stopping big box retailers from selling non-essential items.

"It's sad and it hurts that I can't be open servicing my customers just because I don't technically have something that's classified as essential," Wesson added.

Since the governor’s order doesn’t include any guidance or help for small businesses, Wesson is doing the best she can to get by until she's allowed to invite her customers back inside.

"I'm just going to have to take it day by day when everything gets back up and going and hope that I can survive," Wesson said.

Now if you own a local business which sells essential or non-essential items and have questions or concern about whether or not you're allowed to be open, then you're asked to contact the city of Huntsville's legal department.

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