Amid the COVID-19 neighbors “ratting out” and “snitching” on neighbors trying to stay in business, some good news came to a local shop by way of the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) Wednesday.
“At first they said they had several reports that we were open to the public, and that I couldn’t do that, and I needed to shut down,” Country Store Quilt Shop owner Dee Ann Kimbro said. “And, I said, ‘Well, what we are doing is essential.’” She also pointed out the shop has the required signage, limits the number of people allowed in, and maintains all cleaning procedures.
As the officers looked around and examined the contents of the shop — namely material, thread, and things needed to make masks for healthcare workers, other at risk populations, and self protection — Kimbro told them, “You know, all these people are making masks for self protection, and that’s 99 percent of what we’re selling is fabrics and threads and stuff for that.”
In addition, her shop also supplies needed material for masks making to Nor-Lea Hospital.
“We sell to the hospital. We’re selling to everybody who’s making these masks,” Kimbro, who has been previously featured in a News-Sun story, and appeared as part of a panel in a virtual political rally to express opposition to small businesses being shut down by the governor’s orders, told NMSP officers.
At that point, officers told Kimbro that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration had deemed her as a non-essential business. So, Kimbro asked to see where she was deemed non-essential, and if they had paperwork to shut down her business or if they were just telling her to close.
The officers explained they were doing warnings to close, and if they must turn in a business which won’t close to the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH), then it is out of the hands of the State Police. When the DOH gets involved, that is when fines and civil penalties start, as prescribed by the governor, the officers told her.
“All I’m thinking is, that if my business gets shut down until after May 15, I will have zero income, and I will lose everything,” Kimbro told the News-Sun. She then reiterated what her business sells is instrumental in making products, like face masks, the governor has asked people to make for those in need, and again brought up her sales also include local hospitals and facilities.
The NMSP officers then made calls to their superiors. While they were outside, Kimbro called the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, and put them on speaker phone to hear the conversation when NMSP officers came back in.
Officers asked for proof the quilt shop did make sales to the hospital, and Kimbro was able to produce the bill of sale to Nor-Lea, from Monday.
“He said, ‘That’s all we need, I just need you to be safe. We’re deeming you essential,’” she said.
The NMSP officers told Kimbro the business can remain open, and must adhere to the limited number of shoppers, and to take every precaution while dealing with customers.
“He said, ‘You’re doing everything right. Please limit it to one or two people, and please protect yourself,’” Kimbro said.
The only way NMSP responds to a business is by someone reporting a business they believe to be in violation, Kimbro said the officers told her. NMSP does not go looking for businesses in violation. She also pointed out the officers were professional and courteous the entire time.
“He said there were multiple calls, so you’ve got multiple people around here doing that (”snitching on” or turning in a business for whatever reason),” Kimbro said. “It could be a competitor, it could be a customer who is mad. It could be anybody, you never know. You could call and turn in anybody.”
It was a relief to be officially declared essential, Kimbro said. “I’ve got the paperwork to prove it.”
While she is relieved for the official designation of being essential, Kimbro said she still feels for those who have been closed, and may loose everything because of the governor’s actions.
“That may be what saves all of my businesses, this one being able to stay open,” she said with a sigh of relief. “But I really feel sorry for all of the other people who are still down. I know the relief I’m feeling, but there are still all of these other people out there hurting.”
Blake Ovard may be reached at managingeditor@ hobbsnews.com.