PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An outdoor gear shop owner can only sell half the merchandise in his store. March 27, Rich Pestien said a Peoria Police officer came to the store alerting him that by state direction the business needed to close its doors.
“He said well you’re not really a bike shop I was quite surprised because we have a lot of people that bring their bikes in for service,” Pestien said.
The store has about 300 bikes for sale, along with clothing and sporting goods. Since bikes are considered essential, Pestien implored the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to let him re-open the store.
March 30, Pestien received an email from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. Michelle Masoncup with the DCEO sent the email to the association intending to relay the message to Pestien.
The statement in the email writes, “As promised, we discussed the issue of stores that sell a mix of essential and non-essential goods in greater detail with the Governor’s Office. Sporting goods store that sell bicycles and have bicycle repair provide a good example of stores that have both items. We understand the arguments made that the entire store should not be closed. We provide the following in response and indicate that a portion of your business is essential and therefore the store can be open…”
The statement then provides detailed stipulations. It suggested Pestien isolate the sale of bicycle and bicycle repair within the store and operate with this portion of the store only. Also, the statement suggested he provides curbside pick-up for customers that purchased or ordered merchandise online or over the phone.
Pestien is relieved to be open , but is still unsettled since half his products are untouchable.
“The Targets and Walmarts of the world can be wide open and we’re asked to close half of the store,” Pestien said.
Peoria City Councilman John Kelly said this is a double standard. “This is just wrong, if I come into this store and I look beyond the tape and I see something that I like I can’t buy it, but by golly I can go over to Walmart or to Target or to Sams Club or whatever and I can go buy that same item over there,” Kelly said.
He said this will form new habits and ultimately push people to patronize superstores instead of small businesses.
“Look, I don’t want to deny the money to anyone, I just want a level playing field. This is not a level playing field,” Kelly said.
Pestien said it is frustrating, but he plans to create a website to sell his other merchandise. He said if he could not sell bikes, his business may not have survived and along with his recent sales, he also got a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, money he said is added cushion for the next few months.