DeKalb County businesses take to social media to encourage safe holiday shoppers as tighter restrictions loom

SYCAMORE – Gov. JB Pritzker's Tuesday announcement that indoor shoppers will be limited to 25% capacity at retail shops will take effect Friday, the same day the holiday shopping season is set to unofficially kick off in with downtown Sycamore's annual Moonlight Magic.

It's an annual event set for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, that sees crowds flock to downtown Sycamore to see storefront windows "come alive" as local fine arts, theater and dance groups entertain holiday shoppers. Theater and dance groups from across the county will participate.

“This is our official kickoff of the holiday season in downtown Sycamore,” RoseMarie Treml, executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release. “It’s great to see families continuing the tradition of shopping together during this event. It’s about supporting our local economy and having fun with friends and family.”

Treml was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night as to what, if any, impacts the event will see this year since mitigations were announced just days prior.

Among the new mitigations, put into place due to a COVID-19 surge being felt across the globe and among fears from local health officials that the coming holidays could exacerbate already surging cases and growing hospital numbers, includes limiting the number of people inside a retail shop. Indoor recreation centers, theatre, casinos and video gaming facilities will also close, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and gyms can operate at 25% capacity, with no group classes.

"This is not a stay at home order, but the best way for us to avoid a stay at home order is to stay home,' Pritzker said. "We are asking you to choose Zoom instead of packing people in a room for Thanksgiving."

Anytime Fitness of DeKalb, in a social media post Tuesday, said they'll still welcome patrons inside, but reservations and face coverings are required, including while engaged in individual exercise regardless of person or machine spacing. No group classes or team sessions above five people will be allowed, and the gym will be at 25% capacity ("We typically fall way below this," the post reads.)

"These guidelines are for the next two weeks," the post from Anytime Fitness of DeKalb, 901 S. Annie Glidden Road., reads. "Although we believe exercise is essential to all, we are doing what we can to follow these guidelines. We ask that you be pleasant and understanding with the staff during this short time. As always thank you for your support!"

Pritzker said with the way cases are surging and hospitals filling up, health officials are estimating between 17,000 and 45,000 additional deaths could occur between now and March 1, 2021, about one to four times the amount of deaths incurred in the state to date.

Still, local elected officials are reiterating the impact local businesses, at the height of the holiday shopping season, will suffer once mitigations are in place.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said he fears local economies could take a hit and downtown shopping areas in DeKalb and Sycamore could revert back to the number of vacant storefronts seen after the 2008 Great Recession absent a federal rescue package.

"We've got two competing issues. And they share a sense of urgency, potential devastation and impact on people's lives that we see each and every day in our towns," Keicher said. "On the one hand, there is no question that this virus is spreading. On the other hand, there's not a question that there's no longer a safety net for our small mom and pop businesses."

In DeKalb, downtown businesses are readying for the holiday shopping season despite the pandemic, as the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce looks to hold their annual holiday event Lights on Lincoln and Santa Comes Thru Town Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The event will feature holiday lights and Santa himself riding through town, though unlike past years he won't be allowed to meet with anyone due to the pandemic.

The Downtown DeKalb Merchants, a group made up of business owners in the downtown DeKalb blocks, are getting creative with finding safe ways to encourage holiday shoppers, according to a social media post made just after the governor's announcement Tuesday.

"We are passionate about providing you with the best products and services all year long," the post reads. "Our adaptive and innovative merchants are providing multiple ways for you to support them safely including in person private shopping appointments, online ordering, and video shopping with shipping or curbside pickup."

The DeKalb event is also meant to encourage local holiday shopping, and will welcome Santa to town, not to be deterred by the pandemic. For more information and Santa's route, visit at www.dekalb.org.

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.