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Retailers offer store-to-door pickup service

Shoppers are being told to self-isolate and social distance themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak, which makes shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers more difficult.

However, at least one Brookhaven business is expanding its customer shopping assistance program to include store-to-door pickup and other businesses are following suit.

601 Sports on Brookway Boulevard is taking precautions for shoppers who want to come into the store to browse or buy, but they’re going a step further, several steps in fact.

Store associates will deliver items to shoppers at their vehicle as part of curbside pickup available at all three locations — Brookhaven, Vicksburg and Meridian.

“Our team members and customers are the most important thing to us and we promise that we will continue to do everything we can to keep you safe and make your shopping experience a good one,” said co-owner Jason Martin-Nez. “However, we also understand that some of you may prefer to stay home during this time so we want to make it as easy as possible for you to do just that.”

Like many retailers in Southwest Mississippi, 601 Sports operates its own website and offers free shipping with a minimum purchase.

“Online shopping means you can still snag yourself some new workout gear or turkey hunting essentials or easily send your grandson or niece a soccer ball or new sneakers for them to play outside while they’re out of school,” he said.

But as of Monday, Martin-Nez’s employees were available to video chat with customers to share items they might be interested in and take orders over the phone.

“If you don’t want to come in to collect your purchases, we will be offering curbside pick up. Just let us know when you arrive and someone will bring your items out to you,” he said. “I’m not sure how many people will take advantage of it but we want to offer people that opportunity if they don’t want to get out of their cars.”

Martin-Nez said customers can FaceTime with store associates already, but the curbside pickup is new.

“As small businesses, we’ve got to get creative, try to make sure that we keep moving, keep selling,” he said.

Expectations Too, also on Brookway Boulevard, has offered delivery for a while, but they added curbside pickup Monday.

“We’ve been through some scary times in business in the last 24 years,” said owner Angie Warren, referring to Hurricane Katrina that left them without power at the store for 10 days.

“As a business owner, my family is not just the people I live with but my work family is my family as well. I’m committed to paying my employees.”

Business slowed down after 9/11 as well.

“We’ve been through some scary times, but one thing that we’re committed to is to financially take care of our staff. And if they can come to work, we’re going to come to work. If we can’t, we won’t. We’re trying to push our website right now to help with business, but Expectations and Expectations II will be open until we’re told we can’t be.”

Anyone who wants curbside service can call them when they arrive and a sales associate will bring it out to them.

“Call us when they get here and we can run it out to the car,” she said. “We can even bring it to their house. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep the economy in our town afloat and keep our employees working and keep ourselves as busy as we can.

“We realize it is scary and the fear of the unknown is one of those things that we have to contend with, but we’re just going to keep praying that everything’s going to be fine and we’re going to keep working.”

Warren and Martin-Nez expect other savvy business owners to get on board with the idea.

“Small businesses like ours depend on your loyalty, especially during confusing times like these,” he said. “We will be doing our very best to support other local businesses and restaurants in the community during this time and sincerely hope you will, too.”

Even if a store isn’t promoting the service, Martin-Nez suggests asking for it. Small business owners tend to be able to accommodate special requests easier than a chain store will, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea for other businesses to look at,” he said. “It’s a crazy time and I think everybody needs to look at what they’re doing and try to put their customers at ease as best they can and figure out the best way to get product going.”

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging shoppers to continue supporting local businesses through this health crisis.

“Our local businesses are making adjustments and we recommend you support those businesses as much as possible through this situation,” said Board President Jeff Richardson.