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Swift stays safe for a successful holiday season

Melissa Lahti, left, and Chris Boever, both of L'Anse, shop at Swift True Value Hardware on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON – While there has been some strife and rebellion over Michigan’s restrictions on commerce due to the COVID-19 pandemic – both locally and statewide – most local small businesses have done their best to comply with current Department of Health and Human Services rules.

Once of the locally-owned firms that has taken these safety measures serously is Swift True Value Hardware in downtown Houghton. Swift’s approach is that thriving holiday sales and doing their part to stop coronavirus spread in the community go hand-in-hand.

By adopting all the recommended standards for safe customer service, Swift has been able to stay open. And because of their wide selection of products and gifts beyond just hardware items – carrying things like games and puzzles, sauna supplies, Scandinavian chocolates, Finnish products and Turkish towels – the store generated a normal level of revenue for the holiday season in what has been a very challenging year.

While mask requirements have become a standard in any public establishment during this crisis, Swift hasn’t stopped there and has tried to maxmize the protection that patrons can expect when shopping, according to manager Leanne Weeks.

“If (customers) have a medical condition that prohibits them from wearing a mask, in that case we offer them curbside service,” Weeks said in a Wednesday interview. “We don’t want (at-risk individuals) to put themselves in harm’s way.” Weeks also described other measures like countertop and high-frequency touchpoint cleaning avery 30 minutes – including shopping carts – and sanitization of keypads at the checkouts. Swift’s also provides hand sanitizer, which is available at all entrances and at the service counters.

Staff at the store are also on a rigid regimen of health monitoring and hygiene. “We have all of our staff, when they arrive, they take their temperature and log any symptoms (they may have),” Weeks reported. “And they wash their hands before they’re allowed on the floor. They aren’t even allowed to log in on their shift until they do all of those things.

“And then at the conclusion of their shift they have their temperature checked again to see if there’s any changes before they can depart. … Our staff is (also) required to put a new mask on every day.

“So, we are doing everything within our power to make sure that it is a safe and enjoyable shopping experience (for all).”

When asked about customer attitudes towards all these pratices, Weeks responded positively. “I think generally, everybody is very understanding,” she said. “I think it is a hard time for most everybody (in the local area). Some people are struggling with the requirements, but we’re just doing the best that we can (to keep everyone safe).

“We’re not making the rules but we definitely are trying to do our part, (it’s) a tough situation. … Occasionally, people have been upset but we we do what we can (to defuse the situation) and try to let it roll off our back (and) not take it personally.”

In spite of the overall business climate, restrictions that discourage in-person, local shopping and general economic hardships nationwide, Swift weathered the storm remarkably well this holiday season. “I think the community has been incredibly supportive of us, and we’re incredibly grateful for it, because without that support from the community we wouldn’t we wouldn’t be here,” Weeks said. “We’re going to be heading into our 152nd year in business at Swift and for a family legacy like that to be lost would be a really difficult thing to accept. So people coming together and making the choice to come out (and shop), or get their purchases curbside; we couldn’t be more grateful for that.”

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