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In a shuttered town, two businesses hang tough

Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an emergency order requiring all businesses that do not provide COVID-19 essential services to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public as of Tuesday, March 24.

Previous orders restricting gatherings of more than 25 people—limited to 10 in this order—have already channeled routine parts of life to the virtual realm, including schools, libraries, and civic functions. The latest order has now required the closure—until April 7—of the few local businesses that had not already been affected by physical distancing measures, including two dry cleaning establishments and Harvard Bowling Lanes. (See “State of the Town” for a full listing of what’s open, and what’s not.)

Owner Steve Walz at Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment. (Courtesy photos)

Still, a few businesses have been allowed to carry on, falling into the category of businesses deemed by the state as essential to the welfare of private and municipal entities. Both Toreku Tractor and Equipment and Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment have implemented physical distancing and deep-cleaning measures at their shops, and are as busy as they always are in the spring, selling and repairing power equipment.

Steve Walz, who has owned Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment for about eight years, says that so far, his supply chain has held up, allowing him to continue servicing lawn mowers and other outdoor equipment, and to sustain the retail end of his business. “A lot of people are working at home, so they’re taking breaks, coming in to drop off their lawn mowers,” he said, adding that the usual spring rush to service the machines has happened earlier this year. Walz surmises that the uptick in chainsaw sales at his Ayer Road shop is again due to people being home, unable to avoid noticing hanging branches, half-dead trees, and invasive vines. Still, Walz acknowledged being a bit rattled by the “uncharted territory” introduced by the pandemic, and he wondered how to put the new reality into perspective for his teenage children. “The blizzard of 1978 is the closest I can come for a comparison, but that had a beginning and an end,” he said.

Business steady, but awkward

Co-owner Lisa Shaw in front of Toreku Tractor & Equipment.

Tony Shaw, a Harvard resident and owner of Toreku Tractor in Ayer, told the Press he is busy servicing generators, filling propane cylinders, and selling, renting, and repairing outdoor equipment. Business is about the same as any other spring, he said, if a bit more awkward with the preventive sanitizing and physical distancing that is required. Shaw echoes Walz in the belief that working outdoors has become more important than ever to homebound people, noting that his rental department is open to help with projects that require special machines. “Fresh air and a sense of purpose is essential for everyone,” Shaw said.

Information about the goods and services provided by Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment and Toreku Tractor and Equipment is available at their websites, harvardpower.com and toreku.com.

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