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Downtown Design Shop Closes Due To COVID
Karen Bickford
Riverbank florist Karen Bickford, proprietor of Designs by Karen, is shown behind the counter of her Flower and Gift Shop in downtown Riverbank. She surprised friends and customers who follow her store’s Facebook page with an announcement recently that the store was going to remain closed, permanently. She cited the COVID-19 shutdown as the cause. Ironically, the announcement came the evening before Mother’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for florists. Ric McGinnis/The News

Closed temporarily by the shelter-in-place COVID-19 shutdown ordered back in March, downtown Riverbank florist Karen Bickford has decided to throw in the towel, literally.

“I have closed permanently ... I will miss all of my customers that have been family these last 22 years. Thank you for all of your love and business” read the post entered on the Designs by Karen Flowers and Gift Shop Facebook page Saturday evening.

It’s possible the decision came following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Friday, enacting the first round of Phase 2 relaxation of the statewide closures of businesses.

When asked what prompted the closure, she said, “The COVID-19 shutdown. I just was not willing to do business strictly over the phone and wire services.”

“Plus I think this just might have been a push for me to stop working and stop and smell my own roses … in my own yard,” she concluded.

Bickford’s shop has had a long tenure in downtown Riverbank. She has operated there since 2003, she said, both in her current location, at 3331 Santa Fe, next to the new Pizza Plus, and before that, across the street, next to the bank building.

She has long been a supporter of community groups and activities. As examples, Bickford’s business was a sponsor of youth baseball and softball teams through the years, and both Riverbank Community Theatre and Rio Arts groups when they were active, in the early 2000’s.

Also, she was an active member of the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce, serving as a board member at times, and was instrumental in helping organize the Riverbank Business Association, a group of smaller businesses, mostly downtown. It operated for a short period of time before folding into the Chamber.

Along the way, Bickford served on the Downtown Revitalization Committee, formed in the mid-2000’s to help guide the city as it prepared to re-design and refurbish the area. They worked on the design of streets and the Plaza del Rio Park in the heart of the downtown district, then helped businesses recover and reorganize after the construction work was finished.

A resident of Modesto, Bickford said she first opened her business here in the shopping center at O’Brien’s Market on the Oakdale Road side. She moved into the larger downtown location in 2003.

“I will definitely miss everyone,” she said. “I’ve gained many friends and enjoyed being active in the community.”

This early on, there has been no word yet about the long term disposition of the shop, but numerous good wishes have been flowing down the internet highway and onto her business Facebook page.

Design's by Karen
The storefront of Designs by Karen Flower and Gift Shop over the weekend looks as it normally does when closed, but news from owner Karen Bickford on Saturday evening left friends and customers stunned by a post she made on her Facebook page. She announced that she is closing her downtown shop permanently, citing the COVID-19 shutdown as the main cause. Ric McGinnis/The News