A man shops for vinyl at Hardware Supplies store, Duncan Village, San Fernando, yesterday on the reopening of Hardware stores nationwide.

There was no great rush to hardware stores, bookstores and arts and craft shops as these businesses reopened for the first time in weeks. However, it was a relief for homeowners urgently needing plumbing and electrical supplies to carry out repairs.

These businesses were ready for business by 8 am, ensuring that customers obeyed the required health protocols of handwashing, temperature checks, mask-wearing and physical distancing.

Ricardo Peyrau, manager at Dansteel Limited in La Romaine, said the company does not expect large a turnout this week as the construction sector remains closed.

During the morning, the company saw most of their customers shopping for household supplies for Do it Yourself projects.

Peyrau said the company was also now getting a cement supply.

“It is a balance. Because construction is closed, you would not get the rush. If construction was open, those three days would not be enough. You would be rushing people in those three days where it should open every day to spread it out in the six days that we operate,” Peyrau said.

Glenn Khan was shopping for home improvement items—paint brushes, thinners and garden supplies.

Khan said that as a retiree, he has a lot of time and now was the best time because he does not have any help.

Michael Ragoonanan shopped for tiles for a bathroom floor he was building outside his house. He also needed to repair his toilet.

Simon Alexander, the owner of Allied Home Centre and Allied Industrial Supplies Co Ltd, said it was important that hardware stores reopen.

Simon said it remains an essential service as people tend to have home emergencies with plumbing and electrical malfunctions.

He said hardware stores should open every day, suggesting an 8 am – 4 pm operation. Unlike Peyrau, Alexander expects hardware stores to be busy this week.

“It is more for plumbing. They have broken toilets, the float failed, a line burst and flood out, so they need stuff. Definitely, the hardware would be busy,” Alexander said.

He said that his companies were making efforts, through the Contractors Association, to get staff vaccinated to ensure they are better protected.

At Deltex Art Shop in Port-of-Spain, manager Cheryl Paul said business was good. Paul said there was a constant flow of customers, but they limited the numbers inside to ensure proper distancing.

“It is a relief. We are glad to come back out,” Paul said.

Over at Henry Street, parent Andrew Baird was at Ishmael M Khan buying books for his son, who will write examinations in 2022. Baird said it felt good to return to the bookstore as he got items for himself and his son. He said the operating standards were safe as there were not too many people inside.

A short distance away at Mohammed’s Book Store, employee Charmaine Ramoutar felt safe. Ramoutar said everything was in place to ensure safety, and customers were happy to return. With the Secondary Entrance Assessment and Caribbean Examination Council examinations approaching, she said parents were happy to get supplies for their children.

It was also a relief for employees who were home for a long time. Raynece Appna was happy to be back to work at Nigel R Khan in Gulf City Mall.

Appna said reading was important to the country, so they needed to be at work to serve the public. Her boss, Nigel R Khan, said people were just happy to be around books.

“This is our mission. It is something we love. We have been closed for so long, and something is just not right about the internet and our online store selling all these books online. You still need to come in and immerse yourself in the experience of reading. There is nothing like the power of the printed word, so we are happy to be open after so long.”

Khan said they were practising social distancing and proper hand hygiene in the door. He added that their customers were among the most educated, so they followed the rules.