In Apache Junction, businesses are beginning to reveal signs of normalcy as COVID-19 fears appear to be calming.
The Handlebar Pub and Grill, True Guns and Pawn, and Arizona Gift Center have each been uniquely impacted by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s prevention measures, their owners or supervisors said.
Business has been challenged since the onset of COVID-19 in March at The Handlebar Pub and Grill, 650 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction, said Denny Plzak, part-owner/operator.
“In summer you usually run a deficit. And so, the biggest challenge was losing parts of March and April, which are very good money-making months --- help tide you through summer. So, that was a challenge, getting hit with that. So, that really hurt,” he said.
The business has added space between customers and moved an entrance.
“There’s always challenges in every business, trying to figure out what people expect and keep people safe,” he said.
“So, for us, for example, what we’ve done, we’ve obviously removed tables and chairs, spaced everything out. Our cleaning standards are pretty high to begin with, but we’ve added 120 extra man-hours of just sanitization through each week. We’ve moved our entrance so there’s more space for people. We’ve done more disposable on pretty much everything --- one-use type stuff --- so people aren’t reusing things,” Mr. Plzak said.
Customers of The Handlebar Pub and Grill have been very generous during the pandemic, he said.
“We love ‘em, we’re thankful for ‘em --- we appreciate their patronage. We loved developing relationships with everyone we have. And getting to know everyone’s story that we have over the years, and hope to be able to continue that into the future as we move forward,” he said.
“There were some really cool things that happened during the shutdown. There were people who actually came through and donated their stimulus check to employees here. Peoples’ generosity during that time was pretty amazing,” Mr. Plzak said. “It’s way easier to take that and go spend it on yourself than give it away to people you know are hurting and in need. That speaks a lot.”
He has high praise for the people of Apache Junction.
“Apache Junction is an amazing community. And I think that just goes to show the type of people that are out here. Their heart for people and their heart for people in their communities,” he said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, sales were quite brisk at True Guns and Pawn, 185 N. Apache Trail Suite No. 4 in Apache Junction.
“We completely sold out. When we sold out, we were trying other distributors, ordering more stuff. And we had multiple distributors that were through,” owner Charlie Wise said. “Even our website we had to shut down because we couldn’t get anything... And, that’s the way it was across the country.”
COVID-19 sparked a record number of gun sales in the U.S. in March, he said.
“Within a three-day period during the COVID, they had the most guns sales in ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives]’s history in running through the NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check] system . . . ever since they started doing it. It was record numbers,” Mr. Wise said.
He is opening a second location in Apache Junction and needs to build back up his inventory.
“So, we’re going to open a second location on Ironwood and Apache Trail. We signed the lease in the beginning of May, and here we are on June third, and I don’t have inventory. I mean, I have the normal stuff, but I don’t have guns, I don’t have any of that,” he said.
One distributor was 21 days out on shipping because it was so backlogged with people ordering items, Mr. Wise said.
“On our website, I had somebody place an order on May 22nd and still today I don’t have it. Normally I would have it within three to five business days, on a website order. So, that was actually shipped out yesterday, and then I should have it within the next couple of days,” he said.
“So, the backlog on that stuff is making it harder, but now that I’m trying to get stuff for the other store that we’re opening, I have to put it on the shelf here and I have to sell it --- because of supply-and-demand right now.”
Safety precautions have been set in place to protect customers of True Guns and Pawn, Mr. Wise said.
“We strive on customer service. I mean, we’re really big on customer service,” he said.
“When we opened back up we were supplying masks to everyone that came in. Anyone that entered the store, we had hand sanitizer out front, and then we had masks. I would say, pretty much everyone that came into the store were happy to wear them and put them on because we were supplying them for free. We go through and disinfect everything, every hour --- the glass, everything people are touching. So, it’s just trying to make sure nothing is going to happen,” Mr. Wise said.
Store Supervisor Wendy Summerfield says she is excited to see customers back at Arizona Gift Center, 10821 E. Apache Trail.
“Everyone is just upbeat and positive to be back out in public again. And we have wonderful customers, and just a positive place to be,” she said.
Regulars were also excited for the store’s reopening, she said.
“Our regular customers couldn’t wait until they could go shopping again,” Ms. Summerfield said. “People come here for the healing because of all the crystals. So, since they were away and not able to come shop, a lot of people come in here to relax and get the good energy ... because they are very healing,” she said.
Management has taken precautions to ensure customer safety, she said.
“Our store is very large, so, you know, we have a lot of room for them to do their shopping without having to be on top of each other, Ms. Summerfield said.
“We put up the plexiglass shields in front of our cash registers. We have masks to wear, [they are] optional --- some people don’t wear them but a lot of people do. We have the tape on the floor for social distance. And, like I said, our store is very large so it hasn’t been a problem,” she said. “Everything is feeling pretty good.”
Editor’s note: Volunteer reporter R. Nicholas Evans, who lives in the East Valley, is a freelance journalist.