Eager Customers Flood Local Businesses As The St. Louis Region Reopens | St. Louis Public Radio

Eager Customers Flood Local Businesses As The St. Louis Region Reopens

May 18, 2020

Updated at 5:35 p.m. with information on additional businesses

Customers lined up Monday morning outside a dozen MERS Goodwill locations in St. Louis and St. Louis County before stores reopened at 10 a.m. As the Florissant store quickly reached its 50-person capacity, other people waited outside on X’s marked on the ground — eager to get inside now that businesses can reopen.

Many wore cloth masks, and the few who didn’t were upset that they could not enter the store without one, said Tori Basile, Goodwill’s district retail manager.

“More than anything they’re just looking for that little return to normalcy and what they enjoyed doing before we closed the stores — coming in to treasure hunt and get some supplies that they may have needed while we were closed,” she said.

Businesses throughout St. Louis and St. Louis County opened their doors to customers as officials relaxed the stay-at-home orders implemented to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Malls, retail shops, salons, gyms and restaurants were among the businesses that opened under new restrictions, such as required masks and limits on the number of customers allowed inside.

MERS Goodwill stores closed fitting rooms and extended its return policy to two weeks. The store also marked the floors with arrows to direct the flow of shoppers and reduce congestion between the clothing racks.
Credit David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Great Clips in Tenholder Plaza in south St. Louis County, customers began lining up 30 minutes before the store opened at 9 a.m., manager Jennifer Sloan said.

“We are extremely busy right now,” Sloan said.

By early afternoon, the salon had seen about 70 clients. Great Clips asks customers to check in online before heading to the salon to limit the number of people inside. Six hairstylists help the 10 customers allowed in at a time. Employees and customers must wear masks.

Sloan said most customers will wait about an hour before their appointment. She said employees would help about 200 customers by the end of the day.

Consumers also had an appetite for a sit-down meal at places like Favazza’s, a family-owned Italian restaurant in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis. Co-owner John Favazza said he felt refreshed to see people again for the lunch rush.

“Some of our regulars were showing up, they’re all showing their support, and they’re dying to get out and do something and go get a good meal,” he said. “We’ve had probably almost a regular flow of business.”

But customers are getting a different experience than usual. Tables are pushed six feet apart, and they’re lacking the normal centerpieces — like flowers, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese packets. Employees handed out disposable menus and took orders from behind masks.

The restaurant is taking precautions to make sure customers feel safe dining inside again. Protocols include sanitizing tables and chairs after each use, among other steps.

With the extra money from dine-in service and a federal loan, Favazza rehired nearly all of his 60 employees.

“We’ve all had to suffer a little bit, so this is hopefully one step back to somewhat of normalcy,” he said. “So we’ll go from there.”

Sport Clips Haircuts in Ballwin was among the businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County that reopened Monday. Phone lines were tied up at the salon and by the afternoon its website showed wait times longer than two hours.
Credit File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

But business owners were cautious. Jennifer Coke, owner of Morgan Ford Massage & Spa, opened two of her locations, in Webster Groves and south St. Louis, on Monday, with about half of her employees.

Coke said she let them decide whether they were ready to return to work, but some are nervous about being around the general public.

“They don't want to get anyone else sick, and they don't want to get themselves sick,” she said.

The precautions the massage studios are taking include having customers call from their cars when they arrive and enter the building one at a time before having their temperatures checked. Employees and clients are required to wear masks, and massage therapists take an extra 15 minutes to sanitize materials and surfaces in a particular order, Coke said.

“My personal belief is people are safer coming and getting a service here from someone who is professionally trained, has taken an eight-hour sanitzation course on communicable diseases and is using universal precautions, than walking into the grocery store where half the people have a mask, half don’t have a mask,” she said. 

Coke said she’s eager to get back to business, but she’s not making money yet. A federal loan she recently received is helping her cover payroll costs. Most customers coming in this week are using prepaid services bought during the past few weeks.

“That was really our only source of income,” she said.

The Paycheck Protection Program also kept six OrangeTheory Fitness locations across the region afloat. Customers are flocking to OrangeTheory Fitness gyms around St. Louis County to resume their in-studio workout routines. The St. Charles, Cottleville and Lake St. Louis locations have had waitlists since reopening Saturday, franchise owner Parrish Lamb said.

The boutique gyms are seeing a steady flow of members from across the region to work out at the three locations because its St. Louis locations are still closed, Lamb said. Many of the classes are filled to their capacity of 20 spots.

Lamb said the gym shortened its 60-minute workouts to 45 minutes to give cleaning crews 15 more minutes between sessions. The gym placed elliptical machines six feet apart. Trainers are required to wear masks and face shields to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, but members do not have to wear masks.

“There is still some concern on some members," he said, "and we are taking our cleaning protocols to another level.”

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