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“Diminishing Daily”: Harvard Square Stores Shutter Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Several Harvard Square shops, including the Harvard Coop, have temporarily shut their doors in response to growing health and safety concerns.
Several Harvard Square shops, including the Harvard Coop, have temporarily shut their doors in response to growing health and safety concerns. By Marinda R. Horan
By Taylor C. Peterman, Crimson Staff Writer

Several Harvard Square shops have temporarily shut their doors in response to growing health and safety concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Retail stores that have temporarily closed include the Harvard Coop, the Harvard Book Store, Zinnia Jewelry, Felix Shoe Repair, and Patagonia’s Cambridge location.

These closures come after Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 issued an emergency order Sunday “prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink at bars and restaurants” and “limiting gatherings to 25 individuals.”

Jeremiah P. Murphy, Jr., ’73, president of the Coop, said concerns about the safety of employees and customers was a key reason for the store’s temporary closure.

“There’s a real concern obviously for the employees and the patrons who come into the store in terms of the whole COVID-19 situation,” Murphy said. “We certainly don’t want to put our employees at risk or any more risk being in a retail environment — and the same thing for patrons coming in.”

Murphy added that new state requirements, such as limiting gatherings to 25 people, also contributed to the decision to close.

“Just from our employee point of view, we have more than 25 employees,” he said.

Alex W. Meriwether, general manager of the Harvard Book Store, said closing the store has brought challenges to its mission to be an “open, accessible, safe community gathering place.”

“Finding creative ways to reach out to our community while having our doors closed to the public has been what we’ve all been thinking about these last few days,” he said. “Online business has definitely been a regular part of our business for many years, but shifting it to be the main part of our business, for the time being, has been a challenge.”

Meriwether said the store will focus on phone and online orders that can be shipped for free or picked up curbside.

“Call when you pull up outside and pop your trunk and we’ll contactlessly pop your books in your trunk,” he said.

“We have a table set up so we can place the books in a bag on the table and maintain the recommended six feet social distancing,” he added.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said some stores initially tried to remain open through the pandemic but ultimately closed due to a lack of customers.

“A few said ‘Oh, we’re gonna try and stay open and see what happens.’ And then, of course, with so few people on the street and retail shopping, it just didn’t make sense,” she said. “Other shops are going to give it a shot and see what happens, but I suspect that it will be more costly for them in the long run.”

“The number of people that we’ve seen in the Square is diminishing daily,” she added.

Some Harvard Square stores currently remain open to the public, including Brattle Square Florist, Grolier Poetry Bookshop, tobacco shop Leavitt and Peirce, and roughly a dozen others.

Some representatives from the stores that have closed said they will continue to monitor the situation daily.

“We’re looking at it at a day-to-day basis about what’s happening and if we have to change our plans, or whatever, so it’s kind of a fluid situation,” Murphy said.

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at taylor.peterman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.

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