SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) — At a time when a number of retail stores are itching to get back to business, Ventura-based Patagonia has decided to take a different approach to reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Still so much is unknown,” Joy Lewis, Patagonia retail manager, said. “We’re just proceeding with caution, we’re putting employees first, and I keep saying, ‘People over profits,’ and that seems to be sort of our guiding light for this.”

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Ethical and environmental issues have always been at the heart of the multi-million dollar sustainable clothing company, but nothing has tested those values like COVID-19.

“One of our core values is: Not bound by convention,” Lewis said. “And I just keep thinking there’s no better time for us to start thinking really creatively about how we run retail in a pandemic and after a pandemic.”

Most of the company’s 100 stores worldwide are still closed, cutting the retailer’s profits in half, and Lewis said 80% of retail employees have been furloughed. Those needed in the warehouses wear masks, undergo temperature checks and keep their distance.

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The company has recently been able to reopen a handful of its European stores for appointment only, allowing customers to shop one at a time while wearing masks, and any outerwear they try on is steamed afterward.

But Lewis knows that it’s not retail that will help the business recover from COVID-19’s effects, it will be its growing online presence — a learning curve for the neighborhood stores that once thrived on community gatherings centered around their brick and mortar locations.

“It’s been really neat to see how we’ve been able to still engage communities virtually,” she said. “A yoga class in the past that would have 20 people attend in a physical store now has hundreds attend online.”

The company said it hopes to be able to reopen some U.S. stores for appointments by the end of June, but Lewis said it will depend on how the situation develops.

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“I don’t know if we will be the last ones to reopen, but I think we will be pretty close,” Lewis said. “We’re building a business for the next 100 years.”