New Hampshire’s economy took another step towards reopening on Monday, as retail businesses and hair salons welcomed customers back inside their stores.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order remains in effect through the end of the month, but with the economy faltering and worst-case scenarios of local hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients not panning out at the moment, the two-term Republican is allowing shops to open up to a cautious public.
“I’m excited. It is time to open up,” said Dana De Niro, who helps run LunaChics clothing boutique in Exeter.
De Niro and her staff spent the past two months cleaning, painting and refurbishing the shop on Water Street, while also offering a limited amount of curbside service.
On Monday, she threw open the door and put The Doors on the stereo system. Along with masks, she had hand sanitizer at the ready for both employees and customers.
“I do feel very safe, and I hope everyone feels that way here,” she said. “We’ll make sure that they do.”
Under new state guidelines, all stores must limit occupancy to half of normal capacity; employees must wear masks; and hand sanitizer be available. Stores are asked to make one-way aisles for customers, where possible, and ensure that employees don’t congregate in break rooms.
Even with the precautions, many shops are choosing to delay reopening to the public.
“Not yet; I’m not ready,” said Katherine Norling, who owns Van Claus Designs in Durham, which sells antique and vintage home decor.
“I’m not so sure it’s fear, as much as it is caution,” she said. “We want to make sure our customers stay safe.”
Some hair salons opened to shaggy and roots-bearing customers as well on Monday.
Main Street Barbers in Durham was operating two chairs, accepting customers by appointment only.
Salons are limited to simple cuts and coloring jobs. Blow dryers remain prohibited, for fear of spreading the virus.
“It is going to be different for the client, but they are really eager to feel normal again,” said Angela Sullivan of Black Cat Hair Studio in Exeter, which is booked out with appointments for the entire week.
Tee times were also starting to fill up at golf courses in New Hampshire, which were allowed to open for the season on Monday.
At Rockingham Country Club in Newmarket, the first tee had a steady stream of players.
“We can stay away from each other,” joked Frank Bird and Richard Thorner. “At the tee box is the only time we talk. The rest of the time I’m in the woods, or he is in a sand trap.”