Fixing up cabin fever

Hollywood Hardware, an essential business, has seen an uptick in sales during the shelter-in-place order. (Photo courtesy of atomicpear, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Hardware stores are essential businesses, but customers are visiting them for non-essential tasks.

My friend is predicting a coronavirus Baby Boom: close quarters, minimal contact with the outside world, so … to the bedroom?

Obviously, my friend is single.

Those of us who have cohabitated know what it’s like to spend prolonged, uninterrupted time with one another. It’s sweet at first. Snuggling together, watching movies, doing crossword puzzles. Making bread, making more bread. I think maybe we have enough bread.

Eventually, no matter how usually content at home, we become so restless that we stare at the walls. And those walls need painting.

“I’ve actually, probably sold more paint in the last month than I did … than I did in the previous six months,” says Jeff Ford, store manager at Hollywood Hardware on Freeport Boulevard.

“We’re probably one of the few businesses … that actually gets a little boost in a situation like this, because people are hunkered down.”

“I think it’s an outlet for the citizens who are locked down, to be able to come in here and find things to keep themselves busy while they’re at home.”

Jeff Ford, store manager at Hollywood Hardware

Hardware stores are considered essential businesses under stay-at-home orders, and many have chosen to remain open. While trips for home decorating supplies may not be essential, with responsible social distancing, Ford believes they can provide a welcome distraction.

“I think it’s an outlet for the citizens who are locked down, to be able to come in here and find things to keep themselves busy while they’re at home,” he says.

Sheree Johnston, owner of East Sacramento Hardware, has seen a similar home improvement itch among her customers.

“We’re seeing less foot traffic, but when people come in, they’re buying more,” she says.

It makes sense: With more time at home, it follows there would be more time for those projects that homeowners had been putting off.

“Come a few more weeks, we’re going to see a lot of pretty gardens,” Johnston predicts. “People are doing sprinklers, nothing overly expensive, but [they’re] getting their ‘When I’ve Got Time’ list done.”

However, having more time can correspond with having less income. As unemployment claims surge, more people may have less money to spend on things like home improvement.

“I think people are concerned about how much money they have to spend, or will spend, because everything’s kind of up in the air,” Johnston says.

Additionally, Sacramento County’s most recent extension and clarification of its COVID-19 Public Health Order may make those trips to the hardware store a little less frequent. While “social distancing” has been acknowledged for weeks, it has been laxly enforced. This latest order, which runs through May 1, requires essential businesses to prepare social distancing protocols and train their employees to ensure they’re followed.

Still, as long as hardware stores stay open for business, Sacramentans can continue painting the walls, instead of climbing them.

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