After two months of being shut down as non-essential, Ohio’s retail businesses are being allowed to open Tuesday. By the end of the week, many restaurants, bars and hair salons could also reopen.
If you meander around downtown Delaware, you’ll see the Real Big Puppy pet boutique, which sells leashes and personalized collars that even come with matching face masks for humans. Prior to the pandemic, patrons could give their dogs a bath there and reward them with a gourmet treat.
The store closed in March, following Ohio's stay-at-home order. Even though it can open its doors again on Tuesday, its owners aren't necessarily itching to.
“Honestly, at this point, I don’t know," says Kim Zoob, the owner of Real Big Puppy pet boutique.
Zoob explains the store is small and there’s not much room to meet new social distancing requirements. So, she’ll have to take appointments to allow only one bath at a time, cutting that part of the business by more than half.
The store will likely reopen to see how it goes, but it’s possible it won’t stay open for long as a brick and mortar business. Online sales of its products have been sustaining the business in recent weeks.
“We are very blessed right now to have a following of people who enjoy what we do and they are purchasing online and that’s great," Zoob says. "But our online business right now is 100% supporting us being able to pay our rent, because our landlord is a small business owner and if we don’t pay him, it becomes the slippery slope."
The owners of Olentangy Apparel in nearby Powell understands the dilemma. Online and specialty orders for clothing and other logo wear for businesses and schools make up the bulk of their business. They’ve also been able to fill some of those orders during the shutdown.
However, Vicki Warnecke says the business still has taken a hit.
“All your sports have ended," she says. "All of your spirit wear for the sports and schools have ended. So, it’s affected us now but it’s also next year, when these sports come up, it’s going to be the same thing because what they did purchase this year is going to carry over for next year."
Warnecke is trying to adjust its losses by expanding its offerings.
“Right now, we are trying to figure out ways to do other things we can do with our promotional side, like we are doing hand sanitizers, but it’s hard to get," Warnecke says. "Our suppliers are having a hard time. We teamed up with another small business and are doing custom masks and we are putting logos on them so it’s going to help other businesses that are starting to open that need those things."
Barbers, hair and nail salons are allowed to reopen on May 15, and there will be strict rules on them when they do. Becky McGeary, an advanced cosmetologist and nail artist with JMAC Salons in Powell, says she’s ready for that day.
“For my nail stations, I’ve ordered a plexiglass piece for my nail station where my clients can put their hands through, and I will be wearing masks and I would also like to ask my clients to bring masks," McGeary says. "Our salon is pretty spread out. I have my own private room so I am fortunate that there will only be myself and a client in the room at the same time."
McGeary plans to sanitize the area between clients and ask clients who are ill or have a fever to reschedule.
"Another step that I think we might implement is to ask our clients to wait in the parking lot when it is time for their appointment and when the previous client has left, we will text them and let them come in," McGeary says.
Ohio’s restaurants and bars can also open on May 15 for outdoor dining. Indoor service can start on May 21.
About half of Ohio’s restaurants have offered take out, but John Barker with the Ohio Restaurant Association says, in most cases, it’s not been enough to pay the bills. He says the restaurants will be spending the coming days restocking inventory and training returning staff on new procedures developed with health departments.
“We know that we are going to have to have social distancing so we talk about six-foot distances between tables and our restaurateurs are definitely capable of doing that," Barker says. "They’ve already, in many cases, been working on layouts, getting ready for this. More handwashing. A heightened degree of sanitization. Gloves to be used. And many of our restauranteurs said, 'Yeah, we would have face coverings as well,' and that was one of the recommendations we made as well."
It's important to note, not all restaurants and bars will be able to reopen soon. Only those that can comply with the social distancing requirements and keep groups separate can restart operations.
The rest will have to keep waiting.
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