Getting back to business: Some La Jolla stores open curbside shopping as coronavirus restrictions loosen

Warwick's on Girard Avenue, along with many other La Jolla businesses, is open for curbside shopping with mask and social distancing requirements.
Warwick’s on Girard Avenue, along with many other La Jolla businesses, is open for curbside shopping with mask and social distancing requirements.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Following the state’s move into Phase 2 of business reopenings, some La Jolla businesses are now open for curbside walk-up shopping after several weeks of coronavirus-related restrictions that limited retailers to pickup and delivery or forced them to close altogether.

Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed parts of the state’s stay-at-home order starting May 8, allowing businesses such as those that sell toys, jewelry, flowers, books, antiques, shoes, clothing and sporting goods to open curbside shopping.

However, customers still cannot enter the stores, and facial coverings and social distancing are required.

In The Village, Gepetto’s Toys at 7850 Girard Ave. set up a table in its doorway. Manager Molly McCarthy said the store already had been able to take online orders for pickup and delivery.

“Not that much is different, except the door is open,” she said.

McCarthy said the store followed government-mandated protocols for reopening, creating a Safe Reopening Plan. The plan template, available through San Diego County, needs to be completed, printed and posted at business entrances. It covers guidelines including signage, personal protective equipment, cleaning and proper distancing. It can found at

“We have tape on the walkway to keep people six feet apart, and we’re all in masks,” McCarthy said. The plan is posted, she said, and “we checked off everything we’re doing and have done.”

She hopes her “regulars will come by and I can see them in person.”

Several shops in La Jolla, including Bowers Jewelers on Girard Avenue, are open for curbside shopping, with a Safe Reopening Plan posted.
Several shops in La Jolla, including Bowers Jewelers on Girard Avenue, are open for curbside shopping, with a Safe Reopening Plan posted.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Bowers Jewelers at 7860 Girard had been closed for weeks since the stay-at-home order came down in March. On May 8, the store opened again with a table blocking the entrance and the required list of business practices printed and posted on the open glass doors.

Longtime employee Chris Janke said Bowers has adapted for its customers who are accustomed to lingering over the store’s jewelry cases.

“This is not necessarily a curbside business, so we have one chair for customers to sit,” Janke said, noting a single chair at the entrance. “But most of our customers are choosing to sit outside in the nice weather on the bench.”

As the state continues to release guidelines in a phased plan for reopening businesses shuttered or severely restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry presented a small-business webinar with representatives of various local business communities.

At Warwick’s bookstore at 7812 Girard, owner Nancy Warwick set up tables for books, puzzles and Mother’s Day cards in front of the two entrances.

“We followed the Safe Reopening Plan, so we have the forms required to be posted,” she said. “The requirements that they’re outlining is what we’re practicing with the cleaning, disinfecting, the social distancing, the wearing masks. We’re just being very careful to just have as much distance as possible.”

Warwick said being able to open the doors and serve customers this way has “been very energizing. We’ve probably sold 35 puzzles today, and I’m happy to have so many customers.”

Bloomers flower shop at 7520 Eads Ave., which closed when the shelter-in-place order went into effect, opened May 4 with a full staff for phone orders to get ahead of the busy Mother’s Day week.

Going forward, the long-standing shop will staff two people at a time.

“We filled out the paperwork required by the county, put social distancing in place ... the employees are all wearing masks,"owner Kristen Tebbetts said. “We have a non-contact pickup area, with orders prepaid over the phone.” All the countertops and vases were sanitized ahead of time, she said.

Tebbetts said Bloomers was busy all week handling orders, relying mostly on “designer’s choice” arrangements due to limited product availability.

“We’re doing what we can to get something to everyone,” she said.

“It was heartening to see doors open and stores really following guidelines in the strictest manner,” La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick said May 11. “I saw enough examples on Girard Avenue that it started to feel like a shopping village again, with many safety modifications.”

Even though restrictions were loosened for some retailers, it may be some time before locations such as offices, restaurants, shopping malls and museums can start returning to normal as the state progresses through an attempt to rekindle a state economy ravaged by the pandemic of the virus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

On May 7, state health officials said regions can move further into Phase 2 of the reopening plan when they meet the following conditions:

  • No more than one coronavirus case per 10,000 people in the past 14 days
  • No COVID-19 death in the past 14 days
  • Ability to support employees when they are sick or exposed
  • Availability of disinfectant supplies and personal protective gear
  • Minimum daily testing of 1.5 per 1,000 residents
  • At least 1.5 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
  • Ability to house at least 15 percent of county residents experiencing homelessness
  • Regional capacity to accommodate a 35 percent surge in COVID-19 cases
  • Ability to provide a 14-day supply of PPE to skilled nursing facilities
  • Identification of metrics that counties will use to know when restrictions need to be tightened

As of May 8, San Diego County had confirmed 4,662 cases of COVID-19 and 169 related deaths. The number of deaths increased by four from the day before.

It may be some time before locations such as offices, restaurants, shopping malls and museums can start returning to normal as the state progresses through the second phase of its reopening plan.

The economic toll of the restrictions put on businesses and events in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus has been devastating. The state has processed more than 4.2 million unemployment claims since mid-March, when businesses began closing their doors and laying off employees. Newsom’s finance advisers expect the state unemployment rate will hit 18 percent in 2020.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 5 to support a framework plan to prepare businesses to reopen.

The Reopen San Diego Business Safety Framework calls for all businesses to complete the Safe Reopening Plan and includes five guidelines:

  • Employee health: Procure and provide personal protective equipment for employees and commit to voluntary compliance with public health officials on contact tracing and testing.
  • Safe worksite entry: Establish controlled entrance and exit practices to avoid issues with lines and work with the Public Health Department to create processes for checking employees’ symptoms.
  • Workplace distancing and conditions: Evaluate occupancy and capacity to ensure proper physical distancing and keep shifts consistent with the same employees in each rotation or shift.
  • Employee training and compliance: Ensure signage on safety requirements such as hand washing, physical distancing and reporting procedures for employees who become ill.
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation: Develop a sanitation plan that includes frequent cleaning of restrooms, workstations and public spaces.

Some recreational rules loosened

County officials had mostly good news May 8 for people eager to hit the golf course, rent a boat or get back to a tennis court.

Golf carts, which had been prohibited for most people, will be allowed for all golfers beginning Saturday, May 9, but only for single riders.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced that rentals for recreational items such as bicycles, boats, kayaks and surfboards also will be allowed again Saturday.

Tennis courts, handball courts and similar facilities can reopen for players from single households, he said. The owner of the facilities must have safety plans that include requirements to sanitize all equipment immediately after use.

Supervisor Greg Cox said a public health order that closed all campgrounds about two months ago was being amended to allow limited use, though every other campsite will remain empty and only members of a single household can share a site. Amenities like playgrounds will remain closed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.