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‘Non-essential’ businesses stay open in Clemmons

A sign reminding people to socially distance themselves from others. Photo by Jim Buice / for the Clemmons Courier

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Clemmons Bicycle keeps pedaling in busy spring season

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

For some businesses, it can be difficult to figure out if you’re considered to be essential or non-essential under the latest government orders aimed at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Consider the predicament of Clemmons Bicycle, which apparently falls in the non-essential category but is able to continue operating, with restrictions, under the recent shelter-in-place order in Clemmons.

“I’ve gotten mixed reviews on that myself,” owner Travis Beane said in trying to figure out the order. “It depends on who you ask. In some aspects, I feel like we fit in the transportation category, which would make us essential. But I’m assuming at this point, we’re considered non-essential based on the documents I’ve seen.”

However, under the essential activities section in the order, engaging in outdoor activity is included by complying with proper distancing without limitation, “by way of example, for walking, hiking, running or biking.”

Regardless of trying to interpret the terminology, Beane is happy to still be in business since Clemmons did include that non-essential businesses may continue to operate provided they do so via “curbside, delivery, mail order or virtual/web service only, with no in-store customer traffic, and adhere to social distancing and gathering restrictions.”

That isn’t the case under the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County orders where non-essential businesses had to close.

Mayor John Wait said that he wanted to provide some flexibility for local non-essential businesses to still be open, even with restrictions, and that was important in making that distinction in Clemmons.

“I praise our council and our mayor for allowing folks like myself to continue operating under the guidelines that we have in order to stay in business,” Beane said of Clemmons Bicycle, which has been in business on the southern end of Lewisville-Clemmons Road since the early 1970s. “We’re part of the community. We all live here. We all have families here. We all need a job.”

Beane, who bought the business in 2006, said “we’re doing the closed-door policy where we’re not allowing anyone in our shop other than the employees. We’re meeting folks outside doing curbside dropoff and pickups — kind of like the restaurants are doing. We’ve got one of our tents set up outside. We’ve got our work stand set up and a parking area for bikes where when people come we can meet them out front to answer their questions and service them with the proper distance. And we’ve also got our mobile unit.”

Unlike many businesses that have been dramatically impacted by the impact of the coronavirus, this is a prime time for biking with the arrival of spring and people wanting to get outside and get some exercise in these most unusual days.

“Our business is busy right now, just like it normally is,” Beane said. “Usually as March ends and the time changes, we’ve got more daylight, the sun is out, and it’s warming up, so my business picks up. We ride the wave all the way into August. If this had happened a couple of months ago, we’d been sitting here basically doing nothing like we usually do in January or February. It seems like it’s been a little bit more of a positive increase now because of the fact that everyone is stuck at home stressed out over everything.

“We’ve got to keep the economy going. We can’t shut her down. Small business is not set up like a light switch where you can just turn us off and turn us on. We have to function and be available when people need us.”

The current shelter-in-place order, which went into effect on March 27, remains in place until next Thursday, April 16, or until modified or rescinded, but Mayor Wait said it is constantly being evaluated.

“On the whole, it seems like people are following the order, and I encourage people to continue following it,” said Wait, who added he did receive a couple of complaints of gatherings or more than 10 people over the weekend. “I think what we’re doing is effective and hopefully people will continue to adhere to the current guidelines.”

As of Monday, Forsyth County was on the verge of surpassing 100 known cases of the COVID-19 virus, according to the county Public Health Department. Wait said he was still only aware of one positive case in Clemmons and only had county totals.

The Clemmons Village Council, which usually meets every second and fourth Monday of the month, called off its meeting on March 23 and was making arrangements earlier this week on the best way to conduct next Monday night’s meeting.

Wait mentioned considering doing virtual meetings in a couple of different ways and being able to incorporate public input in some way.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that a staff meeting was held on Monday morning via Zoom, a video conferencing service, and that it went fairly well. He added that Zoom could be a possibility for the council meeting as well. He went back and watched a meeting in Lewisville last week that used that format.

“It looks sort of like the old Brady Bunch show where they put all the faces in the boxes,” Buffkin said. “That’s kind of what you see on screen.”

He said that the meeting could be opened up with the mayor, council and whatever staff are presenting, and then is locked in and tied in to the live stream.

The next scheduled Planning Board meeting on April 21 could present more challenges if a virtual meeting is required since there are three cases to be heard, including two with rezonings that require a public hearing.

“It’s all going to be a learning experience,” Buffkin said.

While trying to figure out how is the best was to proceed with the business of the town, Wait said that the most important thing now is for everyone to be safe and make the sacrifice to stay at home as much as possible.

“If you go to grocery stores or the gas station you can transfer this virus at every single essential place,” he said. “That’s why the real key is to make sure individuals are doing what they are largely doing, which is stay home and only venture out if they actually need to.”