In March, Angela Pratt prepared to close The Plant Foundry to comply with COVID-19 orders. Then she got word that her Oak Park nursery was deemed an essential business because so much of its spring inventory is food-related.
“We felt strongly that if we needed to stay open, we needed safety protocols in place,” Pratt recalls. Hand-washing, disinfecting and social distancing became routine at the open-air nursery at Broadway and 35th Street. In
addition, Pratt began accepting orders by phone and online, with curbside pickup and limited delivery available.
Business has been steady, largely a result of renewed interest in backyard vegetable gardens.
“When this first happened, it was all about edibles,” she says. In fact, the nursery sold out of potatoes for the first time since its founding in 2015. “Soils have been flying out the door. So have seeds.”
As other businesses begin to reopen, Pratt sees a relaxation of pandemic procedures, including some customers electing not to wear a mask. But she vows to maintain her store’s protocols until a vaccine is available. “When you’re a small business and every penny counts, you have to go overboard to get to the new normal,” she says.