Valley Market in Middleburgh, New York, is the only grocery store in town, which makes it a very public place and, therefore, a place where face masks should be worn. Since the pandemic began, the duties of workers there have expanded to include reminding people to wear masks. (They also spend a lot of time disinfecting.) Some customers do not like being reminded to do something they know they should be doing but aren’t. And so they start abusing the staff, and sometimes things escalate.
After one particularly obnoxious argument over the weekend, Valley Market’s owner, Geanine Eisel, decided to close the whole place for a day, just to show the town what would happen if the store were shut down for mask noncompliance.
“I felt like I needed to make a statement to say how important this is and what this would be like if we did close,” she told ABC News 10 in Albany.
A New York State executive order states that stores can refuse service to people who refuse to wear a mask, but Eisel says she doesn’t want to kick anybody out. “As a small business owner,” she wrote on Facebook, “it is very difficult to police and refuse business to loyal customers for whatever reason they dont wear a mask. I feel it puts my staff and myself at risk.” She believes the store is large enough—16,000 square feet—to allow for a few exceptions, like customers who claim they’re physically unable to tolerate a mask or workers who need a small break during or six- or eight-hour shifts as long as they keep their distance from other people. But some customers who saw that decided to call the state and complain. (New Yorkers can be fined up to $1,000 for refusing to wear a mask.)
On Saturday, after one mask-wearing customer got into a fight with two non-mask-wearers, Eisel decided she’d had enough and announced that she was shutting the store down early and that it would remain closed all day Sunday. ABC News 10 had no follow-up about whether the closing cooled tempers down any, although Eisel did feel compelled to post again on Facebook to dispel rumors that she doesn’t require her staff to wear masks. “I actually let someone go because they wouldn’t wear a mask,” she wrote. “PLEASE KNOW THE FACTS.”