Thinker Toys employee Brandon Rodriguez waits for customers inside the store’s front door at Vineyard Town Center May 26.
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Retail business in Morgan Hill began to slowly trickle back to life over the Memorial Day weekend.

As of May 18, Santa Clara County health orders have allowed retail stores to reopen for curbside service, with social distancing protocols in place. In Morgan Hill thus far, it has been mostly small businesses that have taken advantage of the loosened restrictions.

Thinker Toys, located at Vineyard Town Center, reopened for curbside service on May 18. It was the first time the store has reopened for on-site sales since the county’s original shelter-in-place order was enacted to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

John Horner, longtime owner of Thinker Toys, said he successfully applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan that allowed the toy store to rehire about 10 employees for locations in Morgan Hill and Carmel.

“We’re doing a little business—a fraction of what would be normal this time of year—but it’s something, and it lets you pay a few people (to work),” said Horner, who recently sold the company to his daughter, Holly. “But it’s not sustainable in the long run.”

Morgan Hill Thinker Toys employee Brandon Rodriguez the afternoon of May 26 sat behind a table inside the store’s front door that serves as a customer service counter and a barricade to prevent customers from entering. Customers have been encouraged to call or email the store to place orders to retrieve curbside in front of the store.

Rodriguez said business slowly picked up throughout the three-day holiday weekend. Store employees have strived to make use of Thinker Toys’ social media accounts to remind shoppers that the store is open, Rodriguez added.

Also at Vineyard Town Center, BookSmart is allowing customers into the store again, with restrictions that include a one-person limit inside at a time. Co-owner Cinda Meister said the store has been open as an “essential” business because they provide notary services.

Meister added that BookSmart staff offers to deliver merchandise to customers, and encourages curbside pickup.

Horner, a board member of the Chamber of Commerce and a former CEO of the organization, commented on the value of small businesses and the dreadful prospect of losing them to prolonged financial stress.

“Stores like Thinker Toys are a place with heart and character,” Horner said. “The community loses something when you lose local operators of any kind. That’s why we’re carrying on the good fight, and why Holly has decided this will be her mission for the next decade. It’s really about providing for the customers.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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