Though not as crowded as before, Solvang shops and restaurants reopen for business
Though many shops and restaurants in Solvang were open for business Thursday morning, the Danish town was quiet and without much foot traffic from tourists and shoppers.
That said, business owners, local residents, and visitors alike were by and large pleased that life there has taken one small step toward normalcy.
Several business owners with locations on and near Copenhagen Drive told the News-Press that activity in town increased noticeably during Memorial Day weekend, at which time many businesses reopened after a few months of inactivity. However, the number of guests decreased after the long weekend.
The Saturday before Memorial Day was The Copenhagen House’s first day open since COVID-19 restrictions forced it to temporarily cease regular operations and, according to manager Elsemarie Lund, was a particularly special day to reopen.
“It was actually our fifth-year anniversary to the day that we opened again,” she said.
She added that the first day back was “a really, really good day businesswise.” Even though the town wasn’t as busy as before the COVID-19 pandemic, the uptick in visitors from the previous week clearly indicated that people had a desire to get out and about.
“You could tell that people were ready to get out and do a little bit of shopping,” she said.
For Solvang resident Todd Patterson, businesses reopening their doors makes Solvang feel “a little more normal” than before.
Many shoppers who spoke to the News-Press were from out of town, unsurprising since much of Solvang’s economy revolves around tourism. As she was departing the Solvang Shoe Store, San Clemente resident Kim Beauchaine said that restaurants where she lives are not yet doing on-premises dining, so being able to have a sit-down breakfast before hitting the road back home was a treat.
Twentynine Palms resident Cora Hiser was in town for a short holiday with her daughter to escape the 107 degree weather at Joshua Tree National Park. Calling Solvang “her perfect little town,” Ms. Hiser said that while it’s unfortunate some places still remain closed, she does enjoy that Solvang isn’t as crowded now as it was during her past trips there.
“I’m sad for the closures and that more things aren’t open, but again, the silver lining is I come up and kind of have the place to myself,” she said.
Businesses that have not yet reopened include Cariloha, which specializes in clothing and accessories made only from bamboo. Owner and manager Sandi Milby said her store is currently in the midst of preparing for its reopening on Monday by training staff on safety protocols. She’s greatly looking forward to getting back into the swing of things next week.
“I miss what I do, I miss our customers, I miss the people that we’ve met… I’m excited to get back to it,” she said.
However, Solvang Knives co-owner Dianne Wittenbrock was less enthusiastic about businesses reopening, saying she had “mixed feelings” about it. This is in part because her husband and co-owner Jim Wittenbrock is at very high risk for COVID-19. Ms. Wittenbrock recalled seeing crowds of people coming into Solvang over Memorial Day weekend from cities like Los Angeles, mostly not wearing masks as they walked the streets.
During the limited hours Solvang Knives is open, the Wittenbrocks only allow two customers into the store at a time since its small space doesn’t allow for social distancing among groups of more than two. They also require customers to wear gloves, as they’re often touching the store’s knives, as well as wearing masks.
Outside the knife shop, Ms. Wittenbrock observed that people tended not to wear masks unless they were entering a store or some other business. Since Copenhagen Drive can get pretty crowded when visitors decide to show up, she thinks everyone should wear masks when they go out.
“It gets pretty packed,” she said. “We only have so much sidewalk space.”
Meanwhile, the pandemic has meant the cancellation of the Solvang Fourth of July fireworks.