Merchants rejoice as they finally swing open doors and greet customers — with restrictions, of course

Ruben Cortez, manager, with some online orders that are ready to be picked by customers at Lovell's Records in Whittier.
At Lovell’s Records in Whittier, manager Ruben Cortez prepares some online orders for pickup.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The congratulatory and confusing calls came flooding in Thursday for Ruben Cortez, 36, manager of Lovell’s Records and Tapes in Uptown Whittier.

“Man, I had probably around 20 to 30 calls from people asking me if the store was open or telling me they were happy and they couldn’t wait until tomorrow when they ‘could finally walk inside,’” Cortez said. “I had to tell people that the store wasn’t opening for people to come in, but just allowing for pickups. A lot of people didn’t understand.”

This is how the first day went as some businesses across California were allowed to open on Friday. It was limited, halting and a bit confusing. But merchants said they were grateful to connect with customers directly, even with all the social distancing rules and other safeguards.

Despite the confusion, the message of curbside pickup was getting through to some patrons as Cortez had five orders confirmed an hour before his shop was set to open. “It’s great,” Cortez said. “We’ve been fortunate to have good business through social media, mostly Instagram, and now people have been asking for the pickup service.”


While Cortez said his ideal would be to open up, he credits the community, “from La Habra, La Mirada, Montebello, Pico Rivera and Whittier” for rallying to save Lovell’s, which he contends has been in its same location since 1965. Lovell’s walls and counters are bursting with vinyl albums spanning genres from rock and indie rock to hip-hop and underground.

The store also has a large collection of DVD movies, as well as rock posters that draw onlookers to stare through its large front window.

Business Reopening
David Fernandez and Yolanda Gallegos sit with coffee from La Monarca Bakery in Whittier, which was open for takeout orders on Friday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Montebello resident Ralph Rodriguez, 60, stopped by with a bag of vinyl albums he was donating to the store. Rodriguez, who claims he’s a weekly visitor, knocked to see if would be allowed to come in, before eventually being directed by Cortez to hand over the bag at the entrance door.

Both men were wearing masks. Rodriguez took a look inside the shop while handing over the bag, then stepped back, turned around and walked down Greenleaf Avenue with some mixed emotions.

“This place has so much history and I just wish I could come in,” Rodriguez said. “At least it’s still in business.”

Uptown Whittier resident Katrina Woerner, 37, was busy juggling three care packages in one hand and a steaming hot cup of coffee from local shop Mimo’s in the other as she entered Pour Le Bain Bath Shop on Greenleaf Avenue on Friday morning.

It was still 90 minutes before the business was set to open for curbside service, which is designated from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Woerner, who helps run the family enterprise, was preparing gift baskets for pickup.


The Mother’s Day packages included a variety of goodies — essential oils, body washes, soaps, etc. — that she felt were much more personal than other gifts.

“It’s a great advantage to be able to come down and pick up a personalized gift for your mother rather than just by getting her something off the internet,” Woerner said. “We’re really excited about this opportunity.”

Pour Le Bain had survived primarily on internet and social media orders that were all mailed. Woerner said the bath shop already had a few pickup orders in the queue and expected more activity as customers became aware of the policy.

“This helps,” Woerner said, “at least until we can open up.”


Woerner’s store was one of a few that took advantage of the new curbside service option as many other businesses along what is a normally bustling Greenleaf Avenue in Uptown Whittier remained closed.

A clothing boutique directly across the street from Le Bain chose not to open, instead asking customers on a posted message to continue making purchases through the store’s website.