PERHAM, Minn. -- The Back Porch gift shop opened for in-store sales on Monday, May 11, a week before Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency stay-at-home order was set to lift May 18.

Back Porch owner Michelle Shaw decided to reopen the store because large stores such as Walmart can be open at this time, she said. And other local businesses opened over Minnesota's fishing opener weekend May 9-10, she said.

“I’m just trying to feed my family like everyone else,” Shaw said.

Shaw also said that the Back Porch closed voluntarily on March 16.

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Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-48 states that “retail stores and other businesses that sell, rent, maintain and repair goods that can be picked up outside, without entering the place of business, with limited interaction between employees and customers ... are not exempt” from the order.

Noncritical businesses have been able to operate using curbside pickup since the order was signed on April 30. Back Porch has been doing curbside pickup and that is still an option, Shaw said. Ordering in advance is hard as not everyone is aware of many of the small unique items in the store.

Shaw said she reopened after her sister sent her Facebook posts over the weekend from other businesses saying they were open.

Of the businesses Shaw mentioned, only one could be found open on Facebook: Periwinkle Marketplace's page from May 9.

Periwinkle Marketplace in Ottertail, Minn., carries items that are considered essential, the store’s owner, Stephanie Ellingson, said. These include food items, plants, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and masks, she said.

The store closed early on while things were still unknown to help keep the staff safe, Ellingson said. But because it is considered an essential business, Periwinkle's has reopened, she said. Hand sanitizing stations are in the store as well as 6-foot markers. While masks are not required in the store people are welcome to wear them if they so choose.

The Back Porch is also taking precautions and doing its best at keeping the store and items in the store sanitized, Shaw said. She and other employees are wearing face masks and are asking customers to do the same. There is also hand sanitizer throughout the store, and a sink for customers to use.

Police could enforce order

Shaw said an email was sent to the Perham Police Chief to ask about reopening early, but the message went unanswered.

Perham Police Chief Jason Hoaby said he did receive the email over the weekend but did not see it until he was in his office on Monday -- after the Back Porch had announced that it was reopening. Hoaby, who is drafting a response to the email, said failure to get an immediate response from law enforcement is not permission.

Local law enforcement does not have the power to give businesses permission to reopen as the stay at home order is a state order that they must enforce, Hoaby said. Those who choose to reopen will have to face the consequences of doing so, he said.

Both curbside and shipping orders are allowed but allowing customers into stores is not, Hoaby said. Local law enforcement will investigate any business breaking the governor's Emergency Executive Order, and breaking the order could be considered a misdemeanor, he said.

Any business who has questions about reopening or what is allowed right now should call the police station and speak with an officer, Hoaby said.

Meanwhile, Monday evening, May 11, the Perham City Council approved to send a letter to the governor asking to reopen businesses. The letter applied for the state government to allow small businesses to go ahead and reopen while abiding by the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines.

“We would just encourage all businesses to abide by the directives of the State, the Governor, MDH and CDC,” Perham City Manager Jonathan Smith said in an email Tuesday. “We want everyone to take into consideration the health and safety of themselves and everyone around them. “