'A tremendous experience:' Small businesses prepare to awaken from 'Safer at Home' slumber

WHITEFISH BAY -- The owners of outdoor outfitter Yellow Wood in Whitefish Bay are looking forward to seeing their customers again soon but before doors open, they're working through ways to keep that person, small-business touch in with social distancing now required.

Moshe Katz

The outdoors are good for the heart and the soul, a place to get lost in your thoughts and find your way.

"I've always loved the idea of the best-of-the-best that's out there," said Moshe Katz.

Five years ago, self-described "gear head" Moshe Katz and his wife, Debra, started Yellow Wood to outfit people for their outdoor pursuits.

"We've always dreamt of being a profitable store. More importantly, we want to be a break-even store," he said.

The owners, along with a small staff, relished the role of fitting customers for the best shoes, packs and apparel to send people on their adventure. Then, the coronavirus pandemic happened.

Yellow Wood in Whitefish Bay

"We haven't been 'profitable' by any means," said Katz, "but it's been a tremendous experience. This has hit us hard. This has not been the kind of thing -- this doesn't come into any kind of budget."

Now, as some businesses wake from the "Safer-at-Home" slumber around Katz on Silver Spring Drive, he is still working through what's next: how to keep the hands-on customer service approach needed to do business and keep people safe.

"As selfish as we all were wanting to open, eagerly, there's a selfless side that had to be heard," he said. "That is, it's not as much about us as it is about the other, right?"

That one's actions could unknowingly affect another -- the outdoor rule of "leave no trace" -- is harder to apply when what could be left behind, invisible to our eyes. But as an outdoor enthusiast, Katz sees that despite this time of upheaval, nature's healing is on display.

"I love the fact that our skies are cleaner, and our water is cleaner than it's ever been, in my lifetime," said Katz. "That's a pretty powerful statement."

Yellow Wood in Whitefish Bay

Katz is hoping to reopen shop next week. Yellow Wood, and no doubt many other businesses, face challenges moving forward. However, Katz says that what is most exciting is seeing customers and having conversations. No doubt, there will be a lot to talk about.