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Let's Pretend owners share their coronavirus story: 'We are not sure we will make it through this'

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Editor's note: Kerri Meyer and Rick Bryan own Let’s Pretend, 320 W Main St., Middletown, in the Westporte Centre. Here is their story in their own words about handling the coronavirus shutdown. If you are a business owner or employee of a business affected by the closures, reach out to us at editor@pressandjournal.com for possible inclusion in a future story.

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We just moved to our new location in May.

We don’t have a business that we have the ability to modify how we do business — our business is based on social interaction.

In fact, our window sign even says, “Let’s Pretend: A Hands-On Interactive Play Center.”

Our business is about social interaction, and groups and parties. Togetherness.

And while play is a necessity for children to thrive; socially and cognitively, we can't responsibly allow this right now. 

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Our concept for the past eight years of being open is that adults and children are playing together — playing without the distractions of technology. Adults today grew up using their imaginations and creativity; children today are growing up using technological devices. So, mixing adults of yesterday with children of today lends itself to great opportunities for learning, conversation and fun. 

Social distancing is what we need to do right now, but our business cannot operate any other way than it does. On a normal day, adults and children come in to our facility to play. We have different play areas: Carter Grammar School, Dr Lamb’s Animal Hospital, a stage and dress-up, Grayson’s Corner Grocery (they have toilet paper because our areas are nostalgic in theme), Grif’fs All American Diner, G Brothers Construction, the U.S. Post Office, a library and make-and-take arts and crafts. We also do private birthday parties.

We can’t offer a curbside service or takeout or delivery. We aren’t selling life-sustaining products. 

Sure, we can continue to clean everything we have, but that will not stop the virus from spreading. We have no idea what people might be bringing in with them (they might not even know). 

Everything we offer, our entire concept is built around social interaction.

We are not sure we will make it through this. We had a great winter and have done better since we moved to this location and have received many large group reservations for field trips this spring and summer. The last two weekends were totally booked with birthday parties that  couldn’t happen because of the obvious health risks.

Now we are faced with rescheduling (but for when?) and canceling and materials that were already purchased for these parties, that may never be used … but we don't know yet. That's the hardest part for us — the unknown.

We also don't enjoy knowing that children couldn't have their birthday parties — but that was definitely out of our control. In eight years of being open, we have never canceled a party. 

This is all very difficult for everyone. 

The hardest part for me is the idea that we will not recover from this. I'm not ready to give up yet.

We were finally getting the exposure we have hoped for … .