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'Suspended animation' – and maybe a ghost – as Vidler's ponders what's next

It's almost Memorial Day on the calendar, but it's still Easter inside Vidler's 5 & 10.

The popular East Aurora emporium shut down abruptly on March 20, leaving shelves chockablock with unsold chocolates, baskets, rabbits, dye kits, baking molds and pastel decorations.

"I tell people it's like a state of suspended animation," co-owner Don Vidler said.

Like many other retailers, Vidler and his cousin and co-owner Cliff DeFlyer are preparing for the day when socially distanced shopping can return to their store.

They laid off their 25 full- and part-time employees when they closed the shop two months ago. The two partners take orders over the phone and bring goods out to customers at a back entrance.

"Any little bit helps," Vidler said, although sales are maybe 2% of normal levels. The store had shut down its website a couple of years ago because the low sales volume didn't justify keeping it open.

[100 Things Every WNYer Should Do: Shop at Vidler's]

The partners said it's strange walking through the normally bustling store where, even on days when it was closed, the shop would be filled with employees restocking shelves.

"Very echoey," Vidler said.

"It's noises we never heard before," DeFlyer said.

Sometimes they'll ask, Vidler said, "Is that granddad's ghost rattling around?"

He said they'll probably have to have "an amazing blowout" clearance sale to help offload all of the Easter and spring-themed items that went unsold.

McCoy-Local-Covid-19-Vidler's-2020

Some of the items on sale at Vidler's. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

One milestone they were looking forward to celebrating but they're now putting on standby is the store's 90th anniversary next month. Vidler said they had planned to start promoting the event in May.

The partners are studying the state's rules on reopening for phase two, when customers are allowed to return to stores within certain limits.

They're investing in masks and gloves for the workers they will start rehiring, installing plastic shields at registers and adjusting how people enter and leave the famously cramped, multi-level shop.

He said he believes there's a pent-up demand but he recognizes Vidler's sells items that entertain and not the essentials of daily life.

"We're not sure what to expect," Vidler said.

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