For Ecco Salon, reopening safely has meant taking many health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Owner Trent Lange told the Star the 5500 E. Cheryl Parkway business has had to rent extra space just to keep clients and employees six feet apart from one another.
Employees also undergo temperature checks before each shift and wear masks, he said. And clients have options available to them if they don’t want to spend a long time at the salon — dry haircuts and leaving without getting their hair styled after a color service.
Ecco Salon joins many Fitchburg businesses who continue to weather the economic fallout of the COVID-19 health crisis and resulting lockdowns.
Businesses like Oasis Cafe and Pinnacle Health and Fitness opened their indoor spaces May 26 when Phase 1 of the “Forward Dane” plan went into effect. Others, including Dave’s Guitar Shop and Perennial Yoga, offer only curbside and online services for now.
Phase I, which coincided with the end of the state’s original Safer at Home order, allows businesses to operate at 25% capacity if they comply with an established set of precautions to protect customers and employees. Phase II, which was able to begin as soon as June 9 if the country continues to maintain several health metrics, loosens those limitations to 50% capacity.
Fitchburg businesses that are open have adjusted their models to encompass the health and safety precautions outlined in the plan while staying financially afloat.
When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, Kim Schwoerer told the Star, she had to lay off all her Oasis Cafe employees except one.
“I had to set up a delivery system with Eat Street, and that’s been working OK,” she said.
But the outpouring of community support has been “tremendous,” Schoewer said, with customers purchasing gift cards and sent letters of encouragement.
Since May 26, the restaurant has tables placed six feet apart from one another, has plexiglass between customers and employees and requires employees to clean and sanitize the business every half hour.
It has also encouraged people to be outdoors, where there are fewer limitations.
“I purchased new patio furniture because I figured people would feel more comfortable sitting outside,” she said.
Pinnacle Health and Fitness, owner Mike McMahon told the Star he has removed some of its exercise equipment to help with social distancing. Signs are placed on every other treadmill, and stickers are placed on the side of pool areas to remind people to stand six feet apart while swimming. The club closes from 2-3 p.m. every day so staff can clean the place down.
“We have a special (virucide) that kills COVID-19,” McMahon said.
Dave’s Guitar Shop hasn’t found it economically feasible to open its indoor space, manager Mike Turk told the Star.
“We just don’t have the hours right now,” he said.
But the business has a well-established online presence, he said, and aspiring musicians can still set up appointments to come into the shop and view an instrument.
Perennial Yoga announced on its Facebook page May 29 it is planning to reopen June 15, keeping its online yoga and meditation classes going, as well.
Its sister business within the studio, Surya Cafe, is open at 25% capacity for dine-in services.
“A small number of Flow classes will be showing up outdoors and in a very large indoor area, and there will be time for you to practice solo,” the post reads.
Lange said Ecco Salon was prepared for this transition, at least the health part. The business had at first planned on reopening April 24, the original end date of the state’s Safer at Home orders.
But without clients to serve for two months and a state unemployment office overrun with applications, his stylists faced some financial difficulties.
Thankfully, Lange said, the business qualified for the Paycheck Protection Program to bring everyone back together.
“It was taking a bit for employees to hear back from the (unemployment) office,” Lange said.