CLARENCE, N.Y. (WKBW) — The BFLO Store at the Eastern Hills Mall stands frozen in time after the store closed back in mid-March. Signs, hats and shirts for St. Patrick’s Day and Dyngus Day cover the entrance of the store.
“It was like a time capsule walking in,” BFLO Store owner and founder, Nathan Mroz, said. He had to close all five locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Week after week went by and we were like, oh wait, this is something we’re going to have to ride out,” he said, standing in the empty store.
The pandemic hit Mroz’s small business hard. He was forced to lay off all 50 employees.
“To be in a spot we were cruising. We had a really good year to lay everybody off. It hurts, ya know,” Mroz said.
A few weeks ago, the store began curbside pick-up and has seen loyal customers come back to support, but Mroz is counting down the days until he can re-open. He hopes it can be this coming Tuesday as the Western New York region nears Phase Two.
“I think Buffalo just wants to get back and just support Buffalo,” Mroz said.
At a Wednesday press conference, Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz, said: “If we continued in the direction we’re in right now, we’re going to meet Phase Two.“
Less than 24 hours before, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “We are in this home stretch and that is the time frame in which the governor has spoken about two weeks in between each phase.”
Both state and county leaders hope Phase Two will start on Tuesday.
“We’re gung-ho so basically the very first day we’re allowed to open we will be open,” Mroz said.
Three of the five BFLO Store locations will reopen first. Those are at Canalside, Eastern Hills Mall and McKinley Mall. Over the weekend, Mroz said he will be busy adding in safety features to the store before reopening. At the register, Plexiglas dividers will be installed. Throughout the store, buffalo stickers will be on the floor to promote social distancing. Every entrance will have a sanitizer dispense. Both employees and customers will also be required to wear masks.
“We’re keeping your safety as our highest priority,” Mroz said. He also plans to start sidewalk sales in case some customers are weary of coming inside right away.
“We’re not just one local business. We actually support over 100 local businesses in here,” Mroz said. He continued, “Supporting us really goes a long way to help kind of boost Buffalo’s tourism and boost Buffalo’s economy.”