Local business owners adjusting to new health orders as economy slowly opens back up
Josh Fessler admits to being “busy, busy, busy” to prepare for the reopening of his business. But it’s also possible that even with all the new guidelines he faces, it’ll seem like a sanctuary once he starts working.
His salon and barbershop, after all, will seem like a spa compared to life at home these last six weeks, when he’s cared for his two children, a 6-month-old and a son ensconced in the terrible twos. His in-laws practically live with them, which helps, but that also means his in-laws live with him. His wife, a nurse, helped pay the bills while the Craig business he’s owned for three years, Fessler’s Barbershop, 112 W. Victory Way, was shut down, but she worked long hours in what remains a scary profession in these times.
“It’s been chaos from one end to another,” Fessler said and laughed.
It felt great, then, Fessler said, to be working back in his shop on Friday, the first day he could reopen under Gov. Polis’ “safer at home” guidelines. He had appointments booked out for two weeks. He took the easier measures in stride, such as wearing gloves and a mask, spacing appointments 15 minutes apart so he could sanitize and standing six feet away from his salon workers, but he also wondered how he would work on his customers and maintain the social guidelines that are now the norm.
“How do you trim a man’s beard if he has a mask on?” Fessler said. “I’m trying to take the precautions and being strict and stuff, but you can’t do a haircut with a mask on. We’re just going to have to do as good as possible.”
Some businesses won’t notice the easing guidelines as much as others, but owners tried to take some solace in a first step to eventually returning the way things were as much as possible.
Tammy Villard and her family business, Moffat Mercantile, 529 Yampa Ave., stayed afloat by putting her teenage daughters to work after the new home school she runs for them in the morning, a burgeoning grasp of social media and the purchases of residents through curbside and delivery even when they were hurting as well.
“The people in Craig are wonderful,” Villard said. “They came out to support us in droves when they could.”
Villard expanded her market with her Facebook store. Her promising stories include selling stuff to six different states and Boulder (which might as well be) and selling a dozen puzzles in a day and 40 bags of Carmel corn in carrot bags in less than three hours.
“You post something on Facebook and it just goes crazy,” Villard said. “This forced us to get a lot more comfortable with it, but it’s been a great help to us.”
She hopes to continue to sell on Facebook while juggling the new guidelines, including a limit of seven people in her store.
“We aren’t Wal Mart,” she said. “Normally on an average day that’s not a big deal, but weekends are busy. When you get one family with three kids, well, that maxes us out. We will have to babysit and monitor the six-foot rule and the capacity.”
Some stores will stay with the guidelines they established weeks ago for now. Rocky Mountain Cannabis, an essential business, remained open but allowed one customer in the lobby at a time while others shopped via a live menu on the store web site. The regulations haven’t seemed to hurt business as much.
“We started a lot of the guidelines even before the stay-at-home order to keep everybody safe,” said Paul James, the general manager. “We want to be sure everyone is comfortable as they come in here. We may be able to have a grand reopening in the second or third week in May, but we are just waiting to see exactly how this is all going to play out.”
Still, the limitations made it difficult for some businesses to forge their way through a devastating economy even when they’ve remained open. Cook Chevrolet ran an essential business in the service department and remained open as long as its showroom was locked. Potential customers went on test drives alone and communicated by phone or texts or remained six feet apart. Scott Cook, the owner, said those guidelines help remind everyone to maintain their distance and fight the virus, but they also made it harder to sell in a tough economy.
“One of the things that sells anything is human interaction,” Cook said, “and when you eliminate that, it makes it more difficult for the customer and the salesperson both.”
Ashleigh Seely scraped by with her Trapper Fitness Center by offering training sessions in small groups of less than four for 45-minute slots. Seely scheduled them with her trainers, who along with her customers have done well abiding by the new guidelines, such as bringing water bottles and clean shoes, using hand sanitizer and signing waivers saying they would agree to follow all the regulations. She doesn’t know when she can open again — that depends on the county, she said — but those sessions have helped.
‘That’s been a perk for sure after six weeks of no one coming through at all,” Seely said. “We have all the guidelines in place, and it’s been nailed in our heads for eight weeks. Really it’s been a good transition.”
Seely said her small gym will be able to abide by the 10-person limit for gatherings once she does open. Customers will wait outside if it comes to that, but it probably won’t, and all group classes were canceled until the fall.
“We’ve never had 10 people in this place at once,” she said.
Kandee Dilldine’s bakery and KS Kreations, a craft store in downtown Craig, operated under fairly normal conditions, thanks to take-out orders from Craig residents, except for one important detail: She started the business with her mother, Sandy, but she stayed home. She is 70 and has asthma, so they didn’t want to risk it. Dilldine ran the place with her daughter, Kassie Vesely, and the take-out orders weren’t a big deal since most of her customers ordered those anyway, as she has three tables.
“We have been busy because we are a restaurant,” Dilldine said, “and the community’s been so great.”
Even the new regulations were pretty easy to juggle, she said.
“When you work in the food industry, we’ve always worn gloves and sanitized,” she said. “It’s not a huge thing to wash our hands after a customer and wipe down our counters.”
In fact, Dilldine was far more excited as a customer than a business owner for downtown and Craig to reopen again.
“I know how to cook, so my husband and I didn’t go into the restaurants to eat,” she said. “We just like to see people and talk to people. That’s what we’ve waited for.”
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