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Restaurants, salons begin slow thaw; customers test the waters

Friday offered gorgeous weather for a patio lunch and saw hair stylist's booths reopened, but many spaces remained empty. We caught up with a few who ventured out.
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A sunny and breezy 70-degree Friday offered subjectively perfect conditions to grab a patio lunch with family or tame your quarantine mane, but sit-down dining and personal services are re-emerging into a different world.

Outside of Great Clips in Boardman, about a half dozen clients spread out on the sidewalk, waiting for a stylist to be free. 

The shop had a few stylists cutting hair spaced out behind the front desk, and they were busy. One man asked for an update on his spot in line and was told there were 14 people ahead of him.

Anita Palocyi made a rare outing to get her hair cut Friday. Palocyi, who is a new great-grandmother, canceled her weekly spaghetti dinners for the foreseeable future, and she doesn’t plan on taking advantage of other openings any time soon.

“I think people’s lives are more important,” she said. “I don’t care what people are saying.”

Palocyi’s thick, curly hair stands “up to here,” she gestured above her head, when she wakes up. 

With social distancing and the mask she wears, she feels comfortable venturing out for a haircut.

AT THE SALONS

During the pandemic, clients are not permitted to wait inside the hair salon, so they stood outside or waited in their cars. Great Clips has reopened with online check-in, so clients can keep track of their wait times. To prevent coronavirus spread, Great Clips was not providing mustache or beard trims. The Boardman location was requiring masks.

Similarly, Strands Hair Studio along Vienna Avenue in Niles has also made masks mandatory for patrons.

John Myers, one stylist who rents booth space there as an independent contractor and is only now able to get some income back, said he feels store policies and workers’ safety habits will help patrons feel it’s safe to go back out to a salon again.

“I think that as long as they see we are doing everything to the best of our ability to keep them and ourselves safe that they are going to be willing,” he said. “There are going to be those outliers that are like, ‘Why do we have to wear a mask?’ They’re not going to be happy about it, but to those [people]: … Wait until everything blows over officially, then you can come in.”

Strands customers wait in their cars until called in by staff, who usher them directly to a hand-sink near the entrance and lock the door behind them. Only customers are allowed in. The studio is also staggering stylists’ work shifts and leaving adjacent workstations unused so customers can stay distant.

“Our stations are sanitized between each client; all of our implements, shampoo bowls — after any person comes into contact with [it] we are deep-cleaning it,” he said.

Each stylist also takes on one customer at a time — no more double-booking, Myers said.

This means more exclusive scheduling, he said. After Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week announced stylists could return, business has been “crazy” and Strands is now booked through June, Myers said.

It also means more downtime for stylists used to processing multiple customers at once. But Myers on Friday seemed to be glad to be back at work, after spending months dipping into savings to get by.

“Even with us paying taxes quarterly, we still are not eligible for unemployment,” he said. “No money has come in but lots still has to go out for bills and utilities.”

AT THE RESTAURANTS

Of all the restaurants in downtown Youngstown, only V2 Wine Bar and Trattoria along Federal Street took advantage of new state permissions to resume outdoor dining. 

Bob Mocella and Elizabeth Garono, who both work in the mortgage industry, have continued as usual, since the courthouses have been open. 

Before heading to V2, Mocella got his hair cut.

“It feels good getting back to being normal,” Mocella said. His parents both tested positive for the coronavirus and recovered. 

“It’s a real thing,” he said.

He thinks that once the weather becomes consistently nice, people will feel comfortable venturing out. 

Tommy Porter, who was also dining outside at V2 Friday afternoon, estimates people will feel more comfortable going out to restaurants when they give it a try. 

“I don’t cook,” said Porter. “I’ve had to cook for all this though, and as soon as I knew a patio was open, I just ran here.”

Cindy Hillier sipped iced tea while waiting for her fish sandwich on the patio of Mocha House along High Street Northeast in Warren. The noontime sun was bright but not oppressively hot, and it was leveled out by a stiff and cool breeze. Despite the threat of rain, it was subjectively perfect patio weather.

Hillier works in circulation for Warren’s Tribune-Chronicle, which is an essential business, like other media. Since March, she’s ventured only to work and back, or to the store for essentials, she said.

While Megan McElravy’s car was in the shop down the street, she and her daughter Haylie, 10, and dad Ken stopped by Mocha House for drinks and a sweet treat — all with masks. They picked the only picnic table far removed from the rest of the outdoor seating.

“It’s nice to be out of the house, if anything,” she said — her family’s been locked down since March.

Few took advantage of the patio Friday, said Mocha House Owner Nick Liakaris. The coffee and lunch spot’s Friday breakfast rush was big, but mostly for carryout.

Megan said she still doesn’t feel comfortable going out to densely populated places.

“I avoid bigger places like Walmart. The local places where we live I will go into … if it’s not busy,” she said. “If it’s really busy, it’s really packed, I won’t go in.”

Megan said she feels retail consumers are waiting to see how others will follow recommendations and requirements on mask-wearing.

“People are fighting over to wear masks or not wear masks,” she said. “You do it to make sure you don’t hurt somebody else, but I don’t know if everybody follows that.”

Hiller said if the fair weather holds — it is Ohio, after all, and the region took on snow last weekend — she feels it’ll be harder for shoppers and diners to keep themselves cooped up.

“In a matter of time, it’ll gradually be OK. … Let’s hope,” she said.




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