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Businesses in historic buildings try to adapt to social distancing regulations

As historic Main Street in St. Charles reopens, business owners said one thing is in short supply: space

ST CHARLES, Mo. — A sign of the times: a chalkboard bearing "Welcome back" greeted customers at the front door of Magpie's Cafe. Inside, owner Donna Schaffrin wore a mask as she opened her business to customers after weeks of waiting.

"The customers have been begging me, 'When are you open? When are you coming back?,'" Schaffrin said.

One of those customers is Rachel Wisdom.

"I called some restaurants last week that I wanted to go to this week, and they were one of the first ones. They said they would be open at 11 on Monday, so I said, 'I'll be there,'" Wisdom said.

READ ALSO: Here's how restaurants could look different when they reopen

Space is in short supply on this street. The historic buildings aren't ideal for social distancing, but Magpie's has a system. Schaffrin is seating people outside when possible. Table clothes indicate which seats are spaced far enough apart to comply with Missouri's 6-foot distance.

"Thank God I have a huge patio because — outdoors — I can spread tables out nicely, and we can still have a pretty good business," Schaffrin said. "I'm not going to be able to do much on rainy days because I just don't have the right room."

But not every business owner is as eager to reopen. One shop after another, "closed" signs fill the front window. Another read "open by appointment only."

At The Flower Petaler, they have the luxury of space as one of the biggest — if not the biggest — retail locations on Main Street.

"We have had six customers, and they all bought something," owner Tom Feldewerth said. "They were so glad that we are here. So, we are really grateful."

At Di Olivas Oil & Vinegar, owner Robert Palleja said he largely received positive feedback when he emailed customers about their reopening. He said they've made changes to the specialty store's layout to promote social distancing, but he also plans to keep curbside pick-up for customers who might not feel comfortable going inside yet.

"I am optimistic because — in this business — you don't have room to not be," Palleja said.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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