stores

Tehachapi Valley Arts Association Treasurer Irene Rippy, left, and President Gale Caldwell wore mask protection Saturday at Gallery 'N' Gifts. "We were blessed with a busy day," said Caldwell.

Now that Kern County has a green light to begin reopening the economy, some local retailers are eager to do just that, while others are not.

Gale Caldwell, president of the Tehachapi Valley Arts Association, said she was more than happy to welcome back patrons to the iconic Gallery ‘N’ Gifts located at 100 W. Tehachapi Blvd.

The gallery itself remains the same and is a favorite among local residents and tourists alike, featuring fine art and quality crafts. The hours of operation, however, have changed to Thursdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Asked what impact the pandemic had on the store, Caldwell said, “We were fortunate to have great landlords that gave us a month of rent free, so that pretty much saved us. It was awful not seeing our customers and not being able to go to work and see our members.”

With the closure of the store during the quarantine came the cancellation of First Fridays, held at the beginning of each month. In addition, Caldwell said she was forced to cancel this year’s Chalk on the Walk event and the Artisan Festival.

“We will probably have our photo contest online, but we are not sure about that yet... Things are changing day to day,” Caldwell said.

First Friday is not anticipated to return during the month of June and possibly July; however, Gallery ‘N’ Gifts will still have a featured artist during those months.

Said Caldwell, “People have been great, and so supportive, thanking us for opening up and giving them a bit of normal again.”

The gallery is currently short of staff as many of its volunteers are considered high risk.

“We are struggling, and it’s tough, but we are eager to get back to normal,” Caldwell said.

Local antique store owner Alice Middleton said she was also eager to reopen Auntie Em’s located at 225 W. Tehachapi Blvd. She has also tailored her store hours to Thursdays through Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Patrons are required to wear masks before entering.

Asked if she had any fears about reopening, Middleton said, “I absolutely do not. I have hand sanitizer and wipes.”

During the closure, Auntie Em’s has received new inventory, and it underwent a thorough cleaning.

“We are very, very happy to open again,” Middleton said.

The owner of another iconic gift shop, Tehachapi Treasure Trove, said last week she was evaluating when it would be appropriate to reopen.

“We are not comfortable with the situation at all at the moment,” Suzanna Monette said last week.

Then Sunday she wrote that the store will open again beginning June 2 on limited days and hours. It will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and that is subject to change. Customers are asked to wear masks. First Friday is canceled, and no classes are scheduled until further notice. Open studio time is subject to following social distancing.

In a statement issued May 20, Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, said community leaders will be working diligently to ensure the safety of the public during stage 2 of reopening.

“I want to commend the tremendous work by Kern County as our county received approval to move efficiently through the state’s stage 2 reopening phase of our local economy, which now includes dine-in restaurant service and malls with certain precautions. Our county leaders, local businesses, hospitals, and community leaders will continue to work around the clock to advance to the next phase of reopening in a safe and expedited manner. This is an important step as we continue to work to reopen our economy,” wrote Fong.