May 28, 2020BRISTOL – Businesses in downtown Bristol were pleased to hear Gov. Chris Sununu give them the green light to re-open their stores and salons two weeks ago, just in time to shake out the cobwebs from a two-month shutdown order due to the COVID-19 virus and prepare for what they hoped would be a busy Memorial Day weekend.
Salons were the first to re-open and Tiffany Reynolds of Tiffany's Hair Lair was among the town's many salons that eagerly began welcoming customers back to their establishments. Reynolds said it didn't come without specified guidelines however.
"We're limited to one person at a time in the salon and we have to all have masks on," Reynolds said.
That has caused some minor complications for customers with small children or adults with special needs, but they've all managed to work through those issues. Another initial stipulation, being modified as of June 1, was that stylists and estheticians could not do manicures, pedicures, perms or do hair coloring during the first phase of the re-opening process.
"It's been tough. We make most of our money with perms and color but something was better than nothing," said Reynolds. "I'm just happy to see my customers again!"
Down the street at Twin Designs Gift Shop, Brad and Jim Tonner said they were also excited to open their doors once again. While the virus kept many people from travelling to Newfound Lake this year, they still felt they had a good Memorial Day weekend.
"It was wonderful to see people from all over and they've been so supportive of us," said Jim Tonner. "Even local people recognize that small businesses are important and they're all coming back to the shop."
His brother Brad said that in light of the pandemic they had no problem shutting down their store to keep themselves and everyone else safe but since the re-opening they're seeing that people are being very responsible with social distancing. And while he and Jim wear masks in the store, they don't require that of their customers yet see most are wearing them, too. The only major change in their operations right now is that Diane the Turtle is also practicing social distancing. Because of the size of the room off the shop where she lives, they've decided to lock the door for now and just allow people to look through the glass to say hello.
"It wasn't the usual Memorial Day weekend, but we were still very pleased with the reception we had," the pair said on Tuesday.
Nancy Spears of Imagine, a women's clothing shop on Central Square, opened with shortened hours the first week after the shut down order was lifted and has gradually added more hours since then. Spears said that right now business is down about 45-percent at her shop but she did have a great Saturday over the holiday weekend.
"My customers were happy and my vendors are thrilled that I'm honoring my contracts with them. I'm just hoping for the best now as we head into summer," she said.
Across the square, Pizza Bene and the Purple Pit Coffee Shop have placed new tables along their sidewalk for outdoor dining. Jerry Nialetz of Bristol Diner said he, too, had a better weekend since he was able to open outdoor dining on his deck overlooking the Newfound River. Others downtown eateries, such as Cielito's Restaurant, Kathleen's Cottage and Gilly's have also added outside seating areas for their customers to boost their businesses.
No.9 Barber Shop on Central Square is open again by appointment while APU Mountain Spirits Medicine Shop, Riverview Artisans and Fran's Ceramics are also welcoming customers back to their locations.
White Mountain Smile Makers, however, has opted for a unique approach to operating their gift shop for the time being. Rather than fully opening the business, they are presenting "Window Shopping" in a whole new light. Items available inside the shop are currently on display in their large windows with a sign asking that customers text, call or email them for curbside pickup of the item or items they wish to purchase.
Around the corner from Central Square is "#TeamPleasantSt," where shop owners there have been rallying together to bring customers back through their doors. Styles By Julie is once again doing business by appointment, and Gina's Place still has convenient take-out service for breakfast and lunch, while across the street LinCross offers both lunch and dinner take-out selections.
DJ's Crafts on Pleasant Street not only has locally handcrafted goods, doll clothing, farm fresh eggs and colorful face masks in a variety of prints for sale, there's even a good supply of both tea tree or lemon hand sanitizer available for anyone who needs it.
"Business is okay right now," said owner Alice Jenness. "It's down from this same time last year, of course, and it's going to take a little while to build back up, but it's stepping up a little more as the days go by."