Officials with the Houston Premium Outlets announced April 23 that four stores would begin offering to-go services, including the supplement chain Vitamin World and the cookware chain Le Creuset. At the Boardwalk, the fashion retailer Kendra Scott began offering curbside pickup April 24.
Business owners with local retailers in the Cy-Fair area expressed optimism that things were slowly starting to reopen, but some said there are still hurdles in place that make for an uncertain future.
Ginger Hanson, owner of Vintage Gifts and Antiques on Jones Road, said her shop has been using Facebook to promote wares while offering porch pickup to buyers. A lot of stores were already offering retail to-go in various forms prior to Abbott's relaxed order, Hanson said. She said she is hoping to be able to fully reopen soon.
"We are just hoping we can open May 1 because it’s killing us," she said. "When you’re a hands-on, touchy-feely type of store, [retail to-go] is not quite the same."
Shops the offer furniture such as Timeless Designs Market on Mueschke Road in Cypress have been deemed essential and are allowed to remain open while Harris County's Stay Home-Work Safe order is in effect. However, owner Aleesa Hardage, who founded the business with her husband Brook in 2011, said April 24 was the first time she decided to reopen the physical storefront since late March.
The store now offers free local delivery and curbside pickup, and is also allowing a limited number of people inside the store at a time, Hardage said.
"We are calling it 'Shop Small, Shop Safe,'" she said. "I hope that people do realize that these little places, we were already super safe. People don’t push carts in our store. The space is small so we can fumigate our entire store in 10 minutes."
Hardage was one of several Cy-Fair business owners who said she is struggling to run a business where customers often when to see an item in-person before making a purchase. For now, Hardage said she is putting one foot in front of the other with hopes that more people will begin to feel comfortable going out again, but she said she is not sure how much longer she can keep her store open under the current circumstances.
"We have thousands of items, and putting them all up online is an impossible task," she said. "We have been posting like crazy people, but you can’t inundate [people] with too much. We're really having to come up with some very creative ways to get people in the door."
Matthew Crowell, who runs The Comic Vault on Fry Road in Cypress with his wife Marisol, said he began offering retail to-go on limited hours. He said comic book shops like his are in a unique situation; he relies heavily on a single distributor to restock his wares, and that company has suspended all shipments since March 25, he said.
"They are looking to start shipping new product again in mid-May, which is when we’re really hoping we'll be able to reopen again back to normal," he said.
The closure of his retail store has led to a drop in sales, but Crowell said he believes his business model translates well to online sales. The majority of his sales are through people ordering comics through a subscription service that are sent out by mail, which Crowell said provided him with a steady stream of sales through March and April.
"Once new product starts shipping in, we’ll be good," he said. "We’ll be here for the long haul."