By Jason Taylor
(WXIR-Rochester) As the Rochester region undergoes phased reopening, local retail stores are adapting to the changes. For local music stores Record Archive and Bernunzio Uptown Music, this has meant expanding online services while creating safe conditions for curbside and in-store pickup.
Under Phase I of Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward regional reopening plan, nonessential retail stores began providing curbside or in-store pickup and drop off. While some local retail stores are still closed, Record Archive and Bernunzio’s have been open for online orders and are now offering curbside and in-store pickup.
Record Archives Vice President Alayna Alderman says the best thing about being part of Phase I was being able to bring her employees back. “It’s actually a lot more labor intensive doing retail this way. You know, somebody calls on the phone, they’re shopping over the phone, you tell them what we have in stock, you process the payment via the phone, take their name and phone number, and schedule a time when they come by and park in one of our pickup spots, and they text or call us when they are here, and we run out the item to them.” Alderman says Record Archive also continues to mail items to customers and take online sales via their website.
At Bernunzio Uptown Music, Store Manager Ryan Yarmel says that while Bernunzio’s has their walk-in storefront, the business was started in the 1970s selling instruments through mail order. COVID-19 has brought them back to their roots. “In a lot of ways what we’ve had to do was sort of scale back to what we’ve always done, and just really put a focus on the mail order business that we know how to do,” Yarmel says. In addition, Bernunzio’s is offering curbside pickup, appointments for customers to try out instruments, and online workshops.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, retail businesses have to rethink how to make their storefronts as sanitary as possible. Both Record Archive and Bernunzio’s are asking customers to wear masks and stay six feet apart. New signage reminds customers of these procedures. Even when retail stores are allowed to fully open during Phase II, it remains unclear what other changes will have to be made, such as limiting the number of customers allowed in a store at one time. Both Record Archive and Bernunzio’s have had to postpone live musical events.
At Bernunzio’s Yarmel says, “I think we are just taking it step by step. It’s a moment to sort of consider what you are doing and continue to provide the same amount of services.”
At Record Archive Alderman says record stores have been challenged for years and that they are continuing to try and stay relevant and reinvent themselves. Right now, Alderman is thankful. “Sometimes it seems like there’s never a light at the end of the tunnel and I’d like to just thank everyone. When this started I was handwriting gift certificates and shipping them out from my home because people don’t want to lose their favorite record store and it's really so gratifying to know people care and do whatever small part they can. That’s been incredibly wonderful.”
Whether or not the Rochester region continues to reopen depends in part on the rate of COVID-19 infection. If there is a spike in cases, the region may close back down. The balancing act between maintaining social distancing and reopening has been described as The Hammer and the Dance. For local music stores like Record Archive and Bernunzio’s, this is a dance we are all trying to figure out together.