As of March 30, Orange County has met the COVID-19 severity level data requirements necessary to transition into tier three, or the Orange Tier. According to California’s Blueprint for a safer economy, a county must receive over a 7-day period a score between 1-3.9 for their adjusted case rate and a test positivity rate of 2-4.9% in order to qualify to be placed in this new, progressive tier.
As comes with tier-advancement, expect in the next coming weeks to have certain experiences even more similar to what we were once used to. OC’s time in the previous red tier status led to a re-opening of certain businesses and business operations, as well as an increase of capacity for certain establishments.
A local community hotspot, Downtown Fullerton, is known for its broad selection of unique outlets that provide niceties such as food and beverage, tattooing, past-time activities, and clothing. For Fullerton locals, it’s far from unusual to see this area bustling with foot traffic and brimming with enjoyment.
This once lively strip has often had the resemblance of a ghost-town during COVID-19. With the re-assignment for Orange County into orange tier status, shops in Downtown Fullerton have begun to see an increase in business akin to what has always been usual in the strip.
Lost Levels is a video game shop and a retro-style arcade located at 114 Harbor Blvd. in the heart of downtown Fullerton. The shop is split into two areas: a sectioned-off gaming area featuring over 40 retro arcade games and an area where patrons can buy, sell, and trade is full of video games and other retro gaming memorabilia.
In light of the pandemic, the arcade area which takes up the smaller fraction of the shop is regulated to allow 8-10 patrons at a time due to limited space. Players are supplied gloves while using the machines to prevent the spread of the virus.
As for the storefront, they are welcoming all those interested in stopping by, as the rest of the stop is very open and spacious. Guests will not normally stay longer than about 20 minutes, so the limited space has not been a problem lately.
Lost Levels has not yet been able to supply vaccines to any team members. They do however stay on top of their daily cleaning schedules and maintain access to hand sanitizer for employees and guests alike.
Maria Navarro has been an employee at Lost Levels prior to the start of the pandemic. According to her, the social-distancing guidelines initially put out caused a drastic difference in business.
“We’ve definitely felt it here considering we really rely on the foot traffic of downtown. We’re really excited to have everyone open and it seems like people are already starting to become a little more confident. Saturday afternoons are a lot livelier than they were say, a month ago.” Shared Navarro.
Stitch and Feather is a boho boutique that sells mostly women’s clothing along with a smaller selection of other accessories and home goods located at 122 N. Harbor Blvd in Landmark Plaza.
Stitch and Feather have five locations operating throughout Orange County, and this branch was opened in the midst of the Pandemic in July 2020. According to Danielle Sheverton, the store’s manager, the business has been picking up steadily every month since opening.
Prior to red and orange tier placements, on busy weekend afternoons, customers were made to wait in lines before entering to maintain capacity guidelines. Since Orange County was allowed into the red tier on March 14, allowing for larger capacities, they have not had to enforce monitoring the number of customers coming in and out as the boutique is a stop-and-shop setup.
“It’s getting busier now that the heat is coming through, and Spring Break or people go back to work. It’s definitely better, to see the restaurants opening up and they’re allowing dine-in, so, it’s getting busier. Especially at night,” stated Sheverton.
Along with the availability of hand sanitizer and masks being required, the team utilizes other methods to keep guests safe, including the use of disinfectant. Guests are even allowed to try on clothes, which are then steamed for sanitation if the customer decides not to take them.
Sheverton expressed how the weeks in the red tier had improved their business and they are prepared for the orange tier’s new experiences.
“Just making sure to have everyone know that we’re still open during everything and the precautions that we’re taking. It’s still been pretty good. We’re pretty much set, we’re rock and rolling how we are,” continued Sheverton.
Jaxon’s Chix Tenders serves scratch-made chicken tenders at 204 N. Harbor Blvd. in Downtown Fullerton.
Due to the new progressive statuses in Orange County, Jaxon’s Chix Tenders was visibly bustling in the afternoon due to spacious available seating on the front patio, within the restaurant, as well as the back patio.
According to store owner Joseph Mahon, what seems to do the trick is having team members’ temperatures checked regularly and following local health guidelines. He also encourages team members to get the vaccine but feels that decision is to be made based on what is best for the individual and their family.
Mahon shared that he believes there is a more important key to navigating these troubling times.
“Constant communication. An open environment that’s transparent, that doesn’t look down on or shame anybody for contracting or having had COVID-19,” Mahon stated.
Mahon feels that there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Over the last few weeks, as the business has been able to increase, Jaxon’s Chix Tenders sales have been up by about 25%.
Ultimately, Mahon feels that it takes a village–the support from the business owners and the community, as well as the local policies and regulations, are needed to succeed.
“I think everyone has a little bit of COVID fatigue. We were already feeling bad as it has for a while now. Now that we’re open to 25% capacity, I see a lot happier guests and team members” Mahon continued.
Considering the placement into orange tier status on March 30 and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy‘s guidelines, businesses are given seven days to adjust to tier re-adjustments. In the coming weeks, Downtown Fullerton could become increasingly reminiscent of the pre-pandemic community hotspot it’s known for being.