As the North Shore seeks normalcy in “phase two” of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, small-businesses owners are testing the waters and taking precautions while hoping for their customers’ return.
In Nassau County, phase two, which took effect June 10, allowed for the reopening of facilities that included office-based work, real estate services, in-store sales, vehicle sales, leases and rentals, repair and cleaning and commercial building management. Also counted in the plan are hair salons and barbershops, libraries and food delivery services, with some areas, including the Town of North Hempstead, accepting permits for outdoor dining.
Businesses that reopen are expected to follow social distancing protocols and have employees wear gloves and masks.
Nancy Sinoway, whose Port Washington tailoring and alterations studio turned to sewing masks when business dried up, says that the seamstresses in her shop “have been busy.”
“It’s been our first week since March working full days,” Sinoway said. “We really can’t complain. people want to get out and start doing things. We have a lot of people doing these porch weddings later on, and these people want to get married. We’re just doing it differently.”
A representative from Raindew, a variety store in Manhasset, concurred.
“During the height of the pandemic a good portion of our business was curbside pick-up or Home Delivery,” the representative wrote over Facebook Messenger. “We have definitely seen more foot traffic in the store in the last couple of weeks.”
Anil Mathur, a professor of marketing and business at Hofstra University, says this is an expected effect in the wake of the quarantine.
“Revenue will come in for the first time since March,” Mathur said. “This would be a good sign for them that they are able to open stores. They will also probably need to bring back their in-store employees, which means business for the store and employment for those who have not worked for so long, and that translates into more business for other businesses.”
The sustained boom, however, has yet to be seen, according to Mathur.
“What happens if the recovery is continued and smooth is that the trend could continue in the future,” Mathur said. “I have seen an increasing number of people wearing masks and social distancing, concerned about their own safety. Fortunately in our area, with a high level of education, people are more conservative about this. It will be very difficult to predict the second wave impact.”
Even seasonal businesses are taking the reopenings in stride. The weekly Port Washington Farmers Market, which runs during the summer and fall, was among the businesses that reopened, with its debut on Saturday drawing hundreds of customers. It encouraged guests to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. The market’s operators also placed chalk marks on the ground to keep guests socially distant from the vendors and asked visitors to avoid touching or sampling products.
Sinoway is taking similar precautions.
“We’re allowing in one customer at a time,” she said. “We’re really trying to stay by appointment only, comply by the rules. By us doing the one-on-one, we’re good. We’re all being safe, meeting clients, making bridal appointments. They all call and set up a time to come in.”
Mathur says the biggest key to maintaining profitability will be keeping costs down.
“Later, when we get back, we can splurge,” Mathur said. “Let things settle down until there is a better treatment and better resources available. Until that time, it may be prudent for any business to be cost conscious. Having to deal with extra costs with social distancing and so forth is a double-sided thing. That is where businesses will have to be creative.”