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Signs of the times: Town signs bring light-hearted approach to COVID-19 requirements

By Staff | Aug 7, 2020

The skull on the sign for Maria's Taqueria wears a mask along German Street on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Even before July 7, when Gov. Jim Justice announced his mandate requiring masks to be worn by people within public buildings, Shepherdstown’s businesses had posted signs, stating their social distancing customer guidelines.

For some businesses, the signs were simple, stating phrases like “Please wear a face mask” and “Social Distance! Stop the Spread!” But other businesses have gone above and beyond the expectations of customers, with the wording on their signs. Some of the local signs gaining attention are posted at O’Hurley’s General Store, located at 205 East Washington Street.

“I decided a long time ago that we would enforce the mask rule,” said O’Hurley’s General Store owner Jay Hurley, referring to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s social distancing guidelines. “We have some very interesting signage to remind people to wear their masks. It puts a real good light on the whole thing.”

According to Hurley, he wanted to make sure his customers felt welcomed by his new signs, even though they require adherence to strict guidelines. The sign posted on the front of his building, in particular, draws customer comments.

“Customers are required to have shoes, a shirt and a mask on — a smile is optional, but we highly recommend it!” Hurley said, referring to the sign’s message. “Little things like cute and whimsical signs about how people should comport themselves can make a big difference in how customers react to our guidelines.”

O'Hurley's General Store has some witty signs posted, presenting its COVID-19 guidelines for staff and customers alike. Tabitha Johnston

No one could agree with Hurley more, than Creative Procrastinations and Whimsical Necessities owner Emma Casale. Casale’s five-year-old business, located at 132 East German Street, may be a few blocks away from Hurley’s, but its signage similarly playfully reflects Casale’s concern over observing social distancing guidelines. On her front door and Facebook page, Casale explains that, along with customers needing to wear face masks, they can only enter one small group at a time.

“Capacity: two people, one fairy (me) or one fairy (still me) and one family/quaranteam,” Casale said, referring to “quaranteams,” or groups of people who have self quarantined together. “Please, please, please wear your masks properly. Put it over your nose and mouth. Leave it there. Don’t touch it.”

Casale’s serious concern over the pandemic is no laughing matter. On March 15, Casale temporarily closed her business to help slow the coronavirus’ spread — only to test positive for the coronavirus a little over a week later.

“I cannot be open if people won’t maintain proper safety measures,” Casale said. “I’m not going to spend my days fighting with people or worrying about the safety of my other customers.”

Both business owners have faced challenges, after being closed for several months due to state regulations. For Hurley, the pandemic has set him back a few years, financially.

A sign on the door of Creative Procrastinations and Whimsical Necessities welcomes fairies, along with humans following COVID-19 guidelines, inside. Tabitha Johnston

“It hurt really bad. We spent two or three years of putting money in the business and then a couple of years breaking even, and then we started making money. And that went on until 2020,” Hurley said, mentioning that the business does not have enough money in savings to survive the pandemic on its own. “We’re going to have to borrow money to break even.”

Creative Procrastinations and Whimsical Necessities did not have a financial cushion to fall back on, during the months it was closed. To make sure it could reopen, a Go Fund Me page was established on April 16. After a month-and-a-half of accepting donations, the page exceeded its target amount of $5,000, by $25.

“Thank you so much for all of your generosity and support,” Casale wrote on the page. “Fairy blessings and love to all of you.”