Businesses in Some States Start to Reopen, Facing New Realities

April 28, 2020 Updated: April 30, 2020

As Oklahoma, Alaska, Georgia, and South Carolina started reopening their economies last week amid the CCP virus pandemic, small businesses are limping back, braving new financial realities while protective measures like social distancing continue to be followed.

Bill’s Music Shop and Pickin’ Parlor, a family business in West Columbia, reopened last week after South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster slowly reopened the state amid the pandemic. While the income is almost negligible and the family is trying to apply for loans to pay for the utilities of the store, its large group events are still not possible because of social distancing measures.

“We are reopened but still doing less. We are not fully back to what we do. It’s nearly impossible to earn anything,” said Willie Wells, 69, the owner of the parlor with the longest standing history in South Carolina for presenting bluegrass performances.

Just 10 minutes before talking to The Epoch Times on the phone, Wells had called the office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a loan. “I’m not able to apply right now. They asked me to keep checking and try again in the next couple of days,” said Wells, adding that his banker has also been not much help.

Epoch Times Photo
Small business owner Willie Wells (L) talks with Master guitar-maker Larry Threet at Bills Pickin’ Parlor in West Columbia, South Carolina, on April 23, 2020. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Just like Bill’s Music Shop and Pickin’ Parlor, a few flea markets also reopened in the state with adequate protective measures instead of crowded aisles and vendors crammed next to one another.

The Barnyard Flea Market in Lexington rented every other table to make sure vendors are well over 6 feet apart, owner Christina Hunter said.

The flea markets compared their business to Walmart or Home Depot—big box stores allowed to stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re taking all the precautions we can,” said Hunter. “If we see any problems, we’re going to take care of them as quick as possible.” Hunter said closing for four weekends hurt her, but her vendors lost even more money.

Georgia

In Georgia, four customers clutching masks were waiting outside David Huynh’s nail salon as he opened his business for the first time in four weeks on Friday.

Huynh had 60 clients booked for appointments, and police officer Alina Davis was among them. “Yes, I am ready to get my nails fixed,” said Davis.

But in metro Atlanta, the Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique opened to a line of masked customers who had their temperatures checked before entering. Waiting customers were carefully distanced, their spacing marked by blue tape, and chairs were placed at staggered intervals outside.

Managing partner Lester Crowell said there was some nervousness and anxiety among salon employees. “But you know, we all want to come back to work,” he said.

At the reopened Bodyplex Fitness Adventure in Grayson, a dozen people in masks, as required by the gym, worked out on two floors, spraying down machines and weights with a sanitizer bottle staff handed each person. The gym had a fraction of its usual number of customers and provided ample space for people to work out apart, yet some talked and stood close to one another anyway.

Tattoo parlor, Atlanta, Georgia
A sign on the window of Southern Star Tattoo informs customers that tattoos are by appointment only in Little Five Points in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)

“The social distancing I think is probably the biggest challenge,” co-owner Mike Martino said. “I guess when people feel like they have masks, they’re somewhat protected, but we’re still encouraging people to try to stay 6 feet apart whenever possible.”

Although many businesses never closed, Gov. Brian Kemp has said it was imperative to begin easing his state’s economic suffering by allowing others to resume work. The Georgia Department of Labor said 1.1 million workers—about one-fifth of the state’s workforce—had filed for unemployment since the crisis started.

In New York a Few Defy Order

In New York state, the country’s epicenter of the CCP virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a phased-out plan on Sunday to reopen the state starting with construction and manufacturing from May 15.

The administration said the reopening measures will be first implemented in the north of the state and not in New York City which is the worst hit by the pandemic. However, a few small-time businesses and selected eateries have defied the order and reopened.

Fuelea Pacheco, 45, the owner of a Mexican ethnic store that sells handmade leather products in Elmhurst, reopened after a month of closure on April 15.

“We were desperate at home, thinking what to do, wondering what was going to happen. So we came to the store to do some cleanup, and some customers started coming to send some money to Mexico, and we decided to remain open,” Pacheco told The Epoch Times while wearing a mask.

Pacheco’s family in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca manufacture leather boots, hats, belts, backpacks, purses, and footwear that she and her husband sell in New York. The couple was earning $2,000-$3,000 every week selling these products and was also earning $200 every day through a money transfer business.

Because of the lockdown, her store is earning just $100 a day from money transfers, which is deemed an essential business, but she has $6,000 rent for the store to be paid and there’s also rent to pay for the family’s home.

“My family in Mexico depend on us. … We can’t buy them the products, we can’t send them money. The situation is also very critical in Mexico,” said Pacheco.

Epoch Times Photo
M.D. Amin, 30, opened his mobile phone and computer repairing store at Jackson Heights, defying the administration order because it was difficult to feed his family, in New York on April 25, 2020. (Venus Upadhayaya/The Epoch Times)

A few miles away at 74 Broadway, Jackson Heights, a few small stores were opened near the subway station on Saturday. M.D. Amin, 30, the owner of a small mobile and computer repair shop, decided to defy the administration’s order and reopen after his family had no money to buy food.

“I can’t even buy the basic things. I need the cash. I have no unemployment, no income. I applied for a COVID-19 loan but got no reply,” Amin told The Epoch Times, adding that after paying all his utility bills he didn’t even have $20 to buy a pack of rice.

“Since I opened my shop, I can at least get $20, $30, $40, $50 every day,” said Amin. “At least I can buy rice.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya