Buoyed by warm weather, and likely some pent up cravings for a cool treat, demand at The Westminster Cow was brisk Friday evening.
The ice cream shop took its first steps Friday evening to welcoming customers along with other small businesses in Carroll and Harford counties. They are two jurisdictions in the Baltimore metro region that took Gov. Larry Hogan up on his offer to reopen some businesses following a weeks-long stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Because of distancing precautions, a long line became a huge line,” said Mike Reiner, owner of the Gorsuch Road shop, who could have opened before the 5 p.m. order from the governor because he offers only carryout from a window and no one enters the business.
Reiner, like several other shops, said they not only are following orders for distancing, masks and cleaning, they are determining other ways to keep their employees and customers safe. The ice cream shop moved benches, for example, so people wouldn’t all sit together to eat outside.
The governor’s newest order allowed salons, barbers, churches and other religious spaces, pet groomers and other retailers to reopen either by appointment or at half capacity, with masks and distancing required inside.
Others that decided to reopen dealt with employees who were not comfortable or able to return because they had no childcare, or with a host of changes to operations to make sure everyone could keep space between each other.
A Likely Story Bookstore in Sykesville had been coping with the closure by expanding online ordering, with shipping, deliveries and curbside pickup. That all will continue.
But now customers can come inside with masks and look at tables of popular offerings set up so they don’t have to go looking on shelves.
There are distancing signs, hand sanitizer set out and masked employees to offer their normal guidance. Some were ready to come in at the 5 p.m. opening.
“We’re ready, too,” said Debbie Scheller, the owner, who said she and employees spent the last two days setting up. “There aren’t a lot of people now, and I don’t think there will be a deluge of people. But there will be some who want to come out and get some carryout from a restaurant and browse some.”
She said five of her eight employees came back, but three chose not to yet.
Others weren’t so sure how many people would want to come inside shops just yet.
Gentleman’s Edge barber shop in Edgewood said he had only one appointment for Friday evening. Irvin Cole, the owner, said he’s been open to serve essential workers and has had some come in.
“We are only seeing one person or one family at a time,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll adjust as we need.”
Vaughn Taylor Jr., who owns LaBella Pet Boutique in Aberdeen with his wife Monica, said they went into the shop this week to organize all of their appointments.
For now, Vaughn also will serve as a tech rather than bring an employee in. And they won’t be letting any customers inside. They will come out in masks and gloves and collect pets from their owners, and the people will wait outside.
Everything will be wiped down in between visits and appointments will be spaced out.
Vaughn said they have regulars slated to begin bringing pets Saturday morning, as well as new customers whose groomers remained closed or went out of business.
The shop relied on sales of a retail line of vitamins, household goods and other items during the closure.
“We really had to change how we did things,” Vaughn said about reopening. “We did a lot of research and we think we can do this safely. ... No one can enter the shop; I think it will make everyone more comfortable.”
Westminster Cow’s Reiner agreed. He said being set up as a carryout shop made retooling a bit easier. He made the window openings smaller by using heavy plastic shields, and all his employees are in masks and gloves. He makes his products on site.
His catering business is shuttered for now. But Reiner said he’s already gotten three calls about using his ice cream truck for birthday parties. He plans to park in front of the house and party guests can walk or drive up individually, get a treat and wave at the host family.
“It’s unusual,” he said. “But life goes on, even if everyone is 6 feet apart and in a mask.”