'Back to normal': York County business owners readjusting to post-pandemic world

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Christina Clarke, the owner of Sunrise Soap Company, stocks shelves with bath bombs on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Tina Locurto photo.

Some York County businesses are finally readjusting to a sense of normalcy — though that doesn't mean some newly acquired pandemic habits will go away.

Christina Clarke, the owner of Sunrise Soap Co. for example, said she's quite content with keeping up her plastic barrier at the cashier window. Though mitigation efforts across the state ended on Memorial Day, local entrepreneurs are continuing to do their part to ensure customers feel safe.

"I've been watching people be more comfortable and seeing people calling us with groups of seven or 10," Clarke said, referring to Sunrise Soap Co.'s do-it-yourself creation stations. "We're leaving it to the people to decide."

While the COVID-19 pandemic affected many local businesses like Sunrise Soap Co., located at 29 N. Beaver St., it hasn't been all negative.

Christina Clarke, the owner of Sunrise Soap Company, shows off the shop's expanded location. Clarke expanded the shop in October to provide a larger space for its do-it-yourself stations. Tina Locurto photo.

Clarke expanded the shop in October to a second building adjacent to its York City location — providing a larger space for its do-it-yourself stations, which formerly took up a small corner of the original store property.

That extra space has encouraged larger groups to book reservations without the worry of being crammed together, she said.

Additionally, the store's wide availability for hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and curbside pickup can be useful to those customers who are still uncomfortable with being around larger crowds.

"We just like to offer our customers more expanded hours if they don't feel comfortable cramming in with people," Clarke said. "We've always worked with customer safety, and then it got easier to enact it in the first couple of months of COVID when it turned into a ghost town. I feel like we haven't missed a beat."

Megan Derstine, a store associate, packages up soap at Sunrise Soap Company on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Tina Locurto photo.

Similarly, Paulus Mt. Airy Orchards made changes during COVID-19 that orchard officials plan on continuing. 

Karen Paulus, the co-owner of the Dillsburg-based fruit farm, said she plans to continue curbside pickup opportunities and expanded hours for the pick-your-own events during the spring, summer and fall.

Though Paulus Mt. Airy Orchards, located at 522 E. Mount Airy Road, is considered an essential business because of its farmer's market, the farm closed for three weeks before only opening for curbside pickup until May.

Karen Paulus, the co-owner of Paulus Mt. Airy Orchards, is concerned for how the virus could affect the future of their berry and fruit farm in Dillsburg. The farm heavily relies on customers who pick apples, strawberries and other fruits during the summer and fall months.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Many of the orchard's employees are considered high risk for catching COVID-19, and Paulus said she personally didn't feel comfortable opening until managers could figure out how to operate safely.

A year later, Paulus said all of her high-risk employees are fully vaccinated — giving her much more confidence to operate.

"They have a good time working together and they missed that when they couldn't be coming in," Paulus said. "I think they feel like business is back to normal for them."

She added that the nature of her business  lends itself to social distancing by providing many outdoor opportunities, as opposed to cramming into indoor spaces.

Camdyn Delicatei, 9, of Lewisberry, examines a freshly-picked strawberry during the Strawberry Festival at Paulus Mt. Airy Orchards in Dillsburg, Saturday, June 1, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"We're just fortunate enough to have a business that a lot that we offer is outdoors," Paulus said. "It's a beautiful day today, so people are coming out to get ice cream — people are coming to pick strawberries."

As more York County residents become fully vaccinated, store owners are saying it's a good sign things are returning to normal — including Alexandria Hammond, the owner of My Girlfriend's Wardrobe.

The York City-based consignment shop has relied on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines while operating throughout the pandemic. Now, vaccinated individuals have the choice of whether or not to wear a mask at the retail store.

"I am feeling very confident and more hopeful," Hammond said. "Customers are really excited — they're definitely becoming more comfortable shopping now."

A the pandemic, new cleaning procedures have become habit for Hammond and won't stop anytime soon.

"We have always cleaned the store well. We've just made it more noticeable to customers," Hammond said. "We don't hesitate to clean while customers are in the store so our efforts are more visible."

Moving forward, Hammond said she's looking forward to seeing more residents come to York City to shop and eat, adding that she anticipates a large crowd for First Friday.

"I'm really excited to see the downtown offices slowly bring their employees back, and to see people walking downtown again," Hammond said. "Overall, customers are excited to see things lifting."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.