With the county implementing phase one of restrictions, which started Friday, May 1, several businesses previously closed have jumped through hoops to reopen their doors to the public. Business owners report mixed responses from happy to get back to flat out refusal to wear masks in order to enter. For some business like Smoker Friendly, the restrictions haven’t changed much of their day to day. But for others, the restrictions have brought into question if opening is even worth it right now.
“Normally, we’ll have well over 10 customers a day per stylist,” said Bobbie Cummings, owner of Bombshells Salon & Boutique, “but with all the requirements and needing to clean between clients, we just did 5 apiece our first day. It’s been difficult but we’re happy to be open again.”
With a workload less than half of what they’re used to; Cummings said she thinks they can pick up that number as they get the system down and restrictions continue to lift, hopefully.
Non-essential retail stores have had somewhat better luck with customers, quickly picking up according to business owners.
“We’ve been swamped since opening back up,” said Noah’s Ark Thrift Store Manager Laura Ratajczak. “It’s difficult having to wear hot masks all day but it’s nice to have people coming in again.”
Smoker friendly has also seen business steadily pick up.
“To start, it was about half of the customers we used to have but we’re seeing more now,” said Loretta Cusimano, owner of Smoker Friendly. “Every day, a little bit more come back. Over the weekend was almost normal. It’s starting to pick up but it’s still slow.”
One difficulty Cusimano said she’s encountered was requirements for staff reduction. As per county requirements, staffing must be restricted to 50 percent meaning she has had to put a lot of effort into schedules. To her, it was important to keep all her staff and help them get as many hours in as she could.
“Scheduling my staff so that they all get their hours has been a challenge,” Cusimano said. “I’m just trying to work around it. Most of them have had the same hours they had and some of them a few more.”
A constant across the board, regardless of the type of business, was disgruntled customers upset about having to wear facemasks to enter, but they were only a small part of the other numerous people happy to get back out in one way or another.
“There were a few people that said all the requirements were bull and didn’t want to make an appointment,” said Cummings regarding scheduling people for hair appointments, “but we’re following the rules we’re required to and don’t really have a choice. Most everyone was just happy to be able to come in for a haircut.”
Noah’s Ark Thrift Store and Smoker Friendly had similar experiences.
“When we first opened back up, we had a lot of people upset that they had to wear a mask, I think because they weren’t expecting to have to,” said Ratajczak. “Now that people know they have to we haven’t had as many complaints.”
“We get cussed at, at least twice a day,” said Cusimano. “I think it’s happening less since people are learning they have to wear a mask but I’m not going to get shut down because of them.”
In a previous article with The Chronicle-News, Las Animas and Huerfano County Health Department Executive Director Kim Gonzales stated she hoped to be able to ease restrictions further beginning in June, adding, “It depends on how well we do in May.”
Numerous businesses have expressed frustration with continued strict restrictions as the rest of the state continues to open. The Chronicle-News will continue to follow local businesses and gather their concerns as we move toward June.