Farmington’s small business scene more optimistic about 'Red to Green' reopening plan

Matt Hollinshead
Farmington Daily Times
Things were mostly quiet in Downtown Farmington on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Retailers and other businesses look forward to reopening their shops as a two-week shutdown of many businesses deemed nonessential by the state comes to an end.

FARMINGTON — Farmington’s small business scene took on a more optimistic tone about the immediate future under New Mexico’s “Red to Green” reopening plan, which allows shops to start reopening under strict occupancy limits.

“To be able to interact with my customers, or any new customers, in person… it makes a huge difference,” said Matt Buell, owner of Buell’s Fish Hooks in Farmington.

The new reopening format, which takes effect on Wednesday, will allow counties to begin reopening their local economies based on what their own COVID-19 test positivity rates look like in the coming weeks.

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Eateries are allowed outdoor dining at 25% capacity, but won’t be allowed to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity until they reach the yellow zone of below 5% in COVID-19 positivity rates.

However, places like retail stores, close-contact businesses and outdoor recreation establishments can operate at 25% capacity or the set occupancy limitations, whichever is the lesser of the two.

A shopper browses the specialty food display inside Artifacts Gallery during a Small Business Saturday event in Downtown Farmington in this pre-pandemic file photo. Retailers are eager to reopen their doors this week under strict occupancy limits after a state-mandated shutdown that closed many businesses for two weeks comes to an end.

In other words, San Juan County won’t have to wait for other parts of the state to improve before restrictions can be loosened if numbers improve locally.

Bringing the county together

Now that San Juan County has more leeway, Four Corners Economic Development CEO Arvin Trujillo said he hopes multiple agencies in the county can partner together to coordinate ways to help the area's local businesses.

“I think there’s some opportunities for us as a county to take a look at this, see where we go from here... This may be a catalyst to bring the county together,” Trujillo said. “It’s going to be training on the job. We may fall down a few times… This is something that’s brand new for all of us.”

Keep reading:Four Corners governments still accepting small business continuity grant applications

San Juan County’s test positivity rate was at 14.30% during the time period of Nov. 10 to Nov. 23, according to data on the New Mexico Department of Health’s website. 

The test positivity rates for several counties in southeast New Mexico ranged from 21.50% to 28.40% during that same two-week span, according to the NMDOH data.

Downtown Farmington is pictured, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, near the intersection of Wall Avenue and Main Street.

Getting back to work

“I think it’s a good strategy in that the state’s been at different positivity rates,” said Jamie Church, the President and CEO of Farmington Chamber of Commerce. “It’s hard when we have to go along with the whole state. This does seem to be a little more of a strategic approach to me… We will have to be careful and have to be vigilant to get to that green (color).”

Tara Taylor, who owns the bakery at Artifacts Gallery in downtown Farmington, said the shop had been closed the previous two weeks under the most recent public health order.

More:City awards roughly $440,000 in grant money to Farmington businesses impacted by COVID-19

“At least we can open our doors,” Taylor said. “I hope it sort of makes it easier to stay open.”

Artifacts also has to deal with the ongoing construction for the city’s “Complete Streets” project in the downtown area. The last block of W. Main Street under construction is set to reopen later this month.

“It was a like a double-whammy,” Taylor said.

If San Juan County turns yellow but other counties remain red, small business owner Buell said he hopes those counties would reach out for help on ways to improve their own situation.

“We’ve got to concentrate on our counties, getting the counties in these communities to come together,” Buell said. “The impact it’s had on small businesses has been horrible.”

A new roundabout will greet motorists at the intersection of West Main Street and Locke Avenue in downtown Farmington as part of the second phase of the Complete Streets project.

Buell said he will monitor the outlook over the next couple weeks, but added that businesses across the state can get back on the right path if counties are open to giving and receiving advice amongst each other.

“Something I noticed about the state of New Mexico is how resilient we are,” Buell said.

After having to shut down during the week of Thanksgiving, Taylor said it’d be a “huge blessing” if Artifacts can get through December without closing again, but she’s still worried about possible future shutdowns.

Read more:Additional San Juan County businesses now eligible for grant funding

“As a business, you kind of have to be on your toes,” Taylor said. “Shooting for yellow’s a huge goal. We like the indoor part of (our business).”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, mhollinshead@daily-times.com and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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