Purchases of sidewalk chalk, crayons and a copy of Call of Duty was all it took for police to shut down three McHenry stores accused of violating Gov. JB Pritzker’s March 21 shelter-in-place order.
The GameStop, JoAnn Fabric and Michaels stores located in McHenry each received cease and desist letters March 24 after plain-clothed officers bought what they considered to be nonessential services at each business. At the time, each business claimed to be essential during the statewide shelter-in-place order intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The store managers at each location were following guidance from their corporate offices to remain open, McHenry Deputy Police Chief Thomas Walsh said in an email.
“All three businesses complied and closed for business after being issued a cease and desist order by the chief of police,” Walsh said.
Failure to abide by the executive order could have cost each store its business license, according to the letters.
During the compliance checks, investigators successfully bought Crayola brand coloring crayons, a necklace kit, two kids coloring books, a rock and wood painting kit, chalk, and a copy of Call of Duty: WWII, police reports show.
“As I was making the purchase, I advised the cashier I was purchasing the items for my children at home to keep them busy,” one detective wrote in her report. “The cashier advised she, too, needed to pick up some coloring books. I paid cash for the items and completed my transaction.”
Before the cease and desist letters were issued, Michaels reportedly claimed its stores provided the supplies and materials to allow crafters to work from home, Walsh said. JoAnn Fabric also argued that it was essential for selling materials that allow health care workers to make their own personal protective equipment, and GameStop claimed it provided materials – specifically keyboards and computer mice – to support the I.T. functions of essential businesses, even though the McHenry store did not sell those specific materials, Walsh said.
“We sent the information and copies of each Cease and Desist order to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity,” Walsh said. “The DCEO affirmed our position in that these stores were not considered essential under Gov. Pritzker’s Executive Order #2020-10.”
Reached by email Tuesday, JoAnn Fabrics’ Manager of Corporate Communications Amanda Hayes said the company made its case for the state of Illinois to consider JoAnn an essential service, and is waiting to hear back.
“While we are supporting contactless curbside pickup across the entire country, we are currently closed due to express orders from the state of Illinois,” Hayes said. “We have provided the state with our rationale for being permitted to reopen, to allow us to provide Illinois residents, hospitals and health care systems the fabric they need to make masks, scrubs and other PPE. “
JoAnn Fabric has been deemed essential and approved for curbside pickup in other states including Pennsylvania and California, Hayes said.
“We are anxiously awaiting the response from the state of Illinois, and are hopeful we will be allowed to operate all stores as curbside pickup at a minimum soon,” she said. “We know this situation in Chicago is increasingly critical, and many communities would benefit from being able to make masks and facial coverings.”
In a letter posted to the Michaels website, CEO Mark Crosby said the craft store is making precautionary adjustments of its own, including the implementation of curbside pickup, cancellation of several events, and allowing corporate employees to work from home.
“We are increasing the cleaning of cashier and framing counters, store classrooms, shopping cart handles, door handles, bathrooms, breakrooms and other high-traffic and high-touch areas,” Crosby wrote. “We have also developed dedicated communication channels to share information and preventative guidelines with our team members.”
GameStop similarly is offering curbside pickup for pre-paid orders, according to its website. The company also will email customers who have pre-paid for orders that cannot be picked up at a local GameStop that was closed because of state or local mandates.
“We’ll request that you visit a website where you can enter information on where you’d like your game shipped, free of charge,” according to the website. “Our shipping fulfillment center is fully operational and meeting all our customers’ shipping needs in a timely manner.”