Frisco established a Recovery Planning Team in early April that has been working on a phased approach for reopening businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We've been leaning in very heavily to make sure that our processes at the city do not somehow hamper or slow down the openings and the reopenings,” said Frisco Economic Development Corp. President Ron Patterson, who is also the team's leader.
For businesses that have permits that may have recently expired or be near their expiration, Patterson explained Frisco has set up expedited processes that can get renewals done as quickly as the next day. At City Council’s direction, he said there are also policies in place for businesses that may have taken a financial hit from their closures.
“If a business can't pay initially, then we do have it set up so that they don't have to worry about that right now,” Patterson said. “We won't withhold the placard but then would ask that they pay some time before the end of the year.”
Guidelines posted to the city’s website include requirements for businesses, employees and customers taking part in retail to-go services.
At the Stonebriar Centre, general manager Randy Barnett said 19 businesses already offered curbside and takeout services on April 23, and he expected more to join the list.
“We anticipate we’ll probably pick up another half a dozen or so, give or take,” Barnett said. “I think some retailers are taking a wait and see [approach].”
He said the retail to-go approach is optional, but he has been told Dillard’s plans to begin operations again on April 24. Barnett said mall staff will be putting up signs for designated pick-up areas ahead of businesses opening at 11 a.m. Friday.
“Customers will not be able to enter the shopping center,” he said. “You pull up, you contact the retailers, [and] they bring the merchandise out to your car.”
In downtown Frisco, some shop owners have already been offering curbside pick-up but said they are excited to see further openings.
Crafted Wood Craft Studio owner Melissa Winton said she received an almost overwhelming response when she first announced the at-home craft kits the business is selling. Since then, she said sales have remained steady.
“It’s been enough to where I could pay my utilities,” Winton said. “I can pay my rent. I’ve been able to lean on it to cover those things, plus I’ve reduced my overhead as much as I could.”
Bittersweet Ivy Women’s Boutique co-owner Chantal Walsh said the store has been doing regular virtual sip and shop events on Facebook Live that have generated a lot of sales.
“We've had people come out that night and pick [orders] up,” Walsh said. “People have the option of coming to the store to pick up or have it delivered to their house, as we do free shipping also.”
Walsh also said she is interested to see what effect the governor’s revised plan for the state, which is expected to be announced April 27, will have on small boutiques such as Bittersweet Ivy.
“We can really monitor how many people come in, and we can disinfect after every single person,” Walsh said. “We can do things like that. And it just would be nice to open up.”
If non-essential retailers are not allowed to fully open up to customers, both Walsh and Winton were unsure the retail to-go option could sustain their businesses. Crafted is offering a larger at-home craft kit that costs more in hopes of making the operation more sustainable, but Winton acknowledged that might not be right for all of her customers.
“While I'm ticking up my price with the size of the kits, people are losing more money because they're still out of work, and what reserves they had at the beginning are starting to dwindle,” she said. “I honestly can't say one way or another if it's going to be sustainable. All I can do is stay positive and optimistic and hope that it is.”
At Stonebriar Centre, Barnett said he knows business owners are anxious to get back to whatever “normal” is going to look like in the future.
“Everybody’s just interested in seeing where we go next,” he said.
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said he has interacted with hundreds of business owners in virtual meetings during the pandemic. There is a general sense of optimism among the business community during those meetings to move toward reopening Frisco, he said.
“One of the big lifts in doing this the right way is that there's an air of confidence when people are out and about,” Cheney said. “That when they do business, that business is going to take the precautions necessary to make sure that their visitors and patrons are safe.”