CINCINNATI — Retailers all over Ohio are getting set to reopen over the coming weeks.
One thing they’ve got to consider? What to do about customers inside their stores. It’s become a major flashpoint, including at one local Menard’s store.
Customer Chrystal Christman of Deer Park says she was told she had to buy a mask for $1 or be ejected when she went there to buy a thermostat. This came after she says she was told her 11-year-old daughter Clarissa couldn’t come into a different Menard’s.
“The guy came chasing after me in the store,” Christman said. “And he yelled at me and said, ‘If you don’t have a mask, you can’t shop here. If you don’t go up and buy one, we’re going to ask you to leave and if you don’t leave, we’ll force you to leave.'”
Menards officials declined on-camera interviews. In emails, a company spokesman said that the Wisconsin-based home improvement chain was indeed requiring both workers and customers to wear masks.
Jeff Abbott wrote that the response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” but that the while the company will sell masks if available, customers won’t be allowed in without one if they are not available.
Other retailers haven’t expressly required customers to wear masks when they enter stores. That includes Cincinnati-based grocery giant Kroger, which has required masks for workers but stopped short of that for customers.
Kroger officials declined an interview, but in a statement, a spokesperson said the company encouraged customers to wear masks or seek out online options.
The situation boiled over in Flint, Michigan, earlier this week when a security guard at a Family Dollar store was shot and killed trying to enforce a mask policy.
Northern Kentucky hair salon owner Ashley Wright will require her clients to wear masks when she opens up later this month and won’t mind if clients walk away over her policy.
“That’s totally fine with me,” said Wright, who owns a salon in Elsmere. “I would rather protect myself and my clients and stay open for business. You know, if we start opening and we start infecting everyone around us, those numbers will go back up and we’ll have to close again.”
Christman stresses she’s not against wearing masks in stores and had her face covered with her shirt when she went to Menard’s and questioned the store’s motives.
“How can a store like Menard’s, rather than giving them out, profit off of something that is so needed right now?” she said.
Signs in some Menard’s stores indicated the sale of the masks would go toward charity, but spokesman Abbott said that is not official corporate policy.