Haywood County business owners are ready to reopen their dining rooms, beauty salons and tattoo parlors to customers as North Carolina approaches phase two of its reopening plan.
Phase one of the plan started May 8, enabling nonessential retail businesses to welcome customers into their stores after more than a month of government-mandated closures.
On Friday, May 22, depending on Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision, phase two could begin, which could enable restaurants, bars, gyms and salons to serve customers from a social distance, and in limited capacities.
Canton hair salon
In Canton, Pink Cactus Salon made the best of an unfortunate situation by renovating the storefront at 19 Park St., said owner Sierra Perez.
“We actually thought we’d be able to stay open because we have very strict guidelines when it comes to cleanliness. We use hospital-grade disinfectant daily,” Perez said.
While the store was closed, Pink Cactus used the time to open up its floor plan by removing a wall, adding additional workstations and resurfacing the walls and floors.
“We are technically self-employed, even my girls who work here,” Perez said. “All of us kept getting denied unemployment. We applied for the SBA loan, but didn’t get anything.”
Money saved for a rainy day and support from the community has been paramount to the solvency of Pink Cactus Salon, Perez said.
“We’ve been able to stay afloat and sell retail to our clients,” Perez said. “A lot of our clients have prepaid for their appointments so we don’t lose too much money, and that helps out a lot,” Perez said. “A lot of people are buying gift cards. That’s a big help too.”
In addition to having a moment to make renovations, Perez said the shutdown also gave her time to appreciate other aspects of life, and spend more time with her child.
“I love my job. I know I just do hair, but for me it’s a lot more than that,” Perez said. “I miss my clients so much.”
Perez said she wants nothing more than to reopen her salon, but is not willing to lose her license doing so. Meanwhile, the governor’s hair has appeared freshly cut during recent press conferences, she noted.
“It’s frustrating for my line of work — we cut hair, we make people feel good about themselves. The governor tells us we can’t do that, but the governor is getting his hair cut,” Perez said. “You can’t social distance if you’re getting your haircut and your makeup done before you go in for your interviews, so it’s kind of like a slap in the face to us. He still looks great, but nobody else in North Carolina is allowed to look great.”
Waynesville tattoo parlor
Misty and Nate Pooler, owners of Euphoria Tattoo & Piercing in Waynesville, said they were tired of losing revenue, so they decided to open up the retail half of their shop that sells piercing jewelry and other related cosmetic supplies.
Although Misty Pooler said her business plans to reopen its tattoo section as soon as legally possible, she also said she isn’t holding out hope for the governor to announce phase two anytime soon.
“As of now there’s really no telling,” Pooler said.
Like Perez at Pink Cactus, Pooler said she thinks it unfair that a business so focused on keeping a cleanly workspace should be forced to close for so long.
“We have very high training in sanitation, keeping things separate and safe, because we work with blood and needles all day,” Pooler said. “We are more sterilized than most businesses that are already open right now.”
Dining in Maggie Valley
At J. Arthur’s in Maggie Valley, the door was locked and the lights turned off on March 15. The restaurant has yet to reopen, even for carryout, said Erin Mahoney, general manager.
“We were hoping to reopen the first of June, but we’re still waiting to see,” Mahoney said. “The safety and health of our customers and employees is our utmost concern.”
Mahoney said the family-run restaurant is in no rush to reopen, but when it does, employees will wear masks, tables will be spread farther apart than usual, outside dining will be available, and so will curbside pickup.
A small business loan has enabled the restaurant to keep some staff paid, but Mahoney said it is unclear how willing others will be to return to work on reduced income.
“A lot of people who are on unemployment are making more than they were at work,” Mahoney said, “especially with reduced capacities. But if restaurants opened at full capacity they’d be making more.”
This creates a significant unknown for Mahoney.
“I don’t know how that’s going to work,” Mahoney said. “You can’t rely on unemployment forever.”