Arlington, VA

Before you ask: no, Bill’s True Value Hardware (2213 N. Buchanan Street) does not have any face masks.

Every day, Mark Ploskina — son of owner William Ploskina — says he gets around 100 to 200 calls with people asking whether or not he has masks. He gets one of those calls in the middle of an interview about the number of calls.

Mark said as the pandemic was getting started, the store was buzzing with activity as people rushed to get supplies.

“Before the mandatory shutdown, it was insanely busy in here,” Mark said. “People were looking for everything. Emergency related stuff — toilet paper, paper towels, masks. Since the shutdown it’s been about normal.”

While many food, retail and service locations across Arlington are struggling, Mark said the store — considered an essential business under Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s emergency orders — has had a steady stream of customers. Occasionally on weekends it gets too busy and Mark said they have to limit the number of people in the store, but so far they’ve been able to manage.

At first, the main items were coronavirus-related, but as spring has started to bloom Mark said that’s beginning to change.

“Everybody wants to congregate in the same area: plants, seeds and gardening,” Mark said. “[People go for] everything garden related. People are so bored.”

Mark said he’s happy people are coming in, but feels slightly guilty when he sees customers going out and buying non-essentials during the stay-at-home order.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “I want to serve the community, but there’s a lot of people coming in and these are not emergency supplies.”

As the pandemic set in, Mark said the store got a box full of masks — about $150 worth — but they sent the box straight to the hospital for use by healthcare workers.

“It was the right thing to do,” Mark said. “I want customers to be safe, but the hospitals need it.”

Photo via Bill’s True Value Hardware/Facebook

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