By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Kim Weekes, Oneonta, had been waiting for this moment for two months.
“I feel giddy, like a school girl,” she said. “It’s like a first date!”
Weekes, a client of Kelly Woessner at The Hair Studio in The Shops at Ford and Main, snagged a coveted appointment on Saturday, May 29, Oneonta, the first full-day retail and hair salons could be open under Phase Two of NY Forward.
“I’ve had clients since 7:30 a.m.” said Woessner. “And I’m booked out until the end of June.”
Main Streets in Oneonta and Cooperstown saw an influx of customers; not quite the rush of summer traffic, but a welcome sight through doors that have been closed for two months.
“It’s so good to see people,” said Laura Tolbert, All About the Girls. “I’m starting to feel more human.”
“Customers are hungry to come in and shop,” said LJ Alexander, LJ’s Sassy Boutique. “We’re not online, so we depend on the customer who walks in the door.”
To open, stores had to follow a series of strict guidelines, including cleaning procedures, access to hand sanitizer, social distancing and no more than 50-percent capacity.
“The cleaning guidelines alone are 10 pages long,” said Nate Roberts, Serenity Hobbies. “And we put a hard cap of 10 customers at a time.”
“We had to submit a plan and fill out a whole booklet,” said Tolbert. “If people from the state come by and check, you have to be prepared.”
“The Cooperstown Distillery brought over hand sanitizer,” said Sue Fink, who gave her daughter-in-law,
Lori, a day off from Tin Bin Alley. “Businesses are really working together, and it’s been so nice to see everyone. Everyone is being very respectful.”
At Tin Bin Alley, tape lines were placed on the floor to keep customers 6 feet from the counter, and customers read the price to the clerk to minimize contact. At L’il Sassy’s Boutique, the store was marked for a one-way traffic flow.
“I got an additional certification in sanitizing procedures from Barbicide,” said Woessner. “I want to make sure my clients feel safe.”
An executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed store owners to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask. But if you left yours in the car, All About the Girls, has a box of paper masks at the front of her store, free of charge.
“I want people to feel safe,” she said. “It’s so good to see everyone, it makes us all feel human again.”
She’ll also throw in a free fabric mask – black or leopard print – with every purchase. “We’ve got your mask here, either way.”
In Oneonta, The Artisan’s Guild and Serenity Hobbies modified hours to abbreviate staffing and allow for cleaning. “I can’t be fully open until Phase Four,” said Roberts. “So much of what we do is event-based, tournaments and game nights, and that’s under recreation.”
If the region continues to stay within the state’s parameters, Phase Three could open in 14 days, possibly allowing restaurants to open for in-house dining.
“We’ve back in the swing of things,” said Alexander. “It’s fun again, and it will only get better.”
“You can’t tell under the mask,” said Weekes as Woessner began to snip. “But I’m smiling.”