FARGO — Lisa Wourms has thought about closing her doors for the time being amidst the coronavirus pandemic that has hit many local businesses hard.
But the licensed massage therapist and owner of B Relaxed Massage in Fargo has amped up cleaning procedures to keep her doors, which hold up a sign that reads “No walk-ins,” open.
“I’m taking the precautions I need to help keep everybody as safe as possible, but I still need to make a little bit of a living,” Wourms said.
Wourms wipes down all of the areas any of her clients might essentially touch numerous times a day. B Relaxed is by appointment only, and before booking, Wourms asks each person if they’ve been traveling or have any symptoms.
“At first, I didn't fully take it seriously,” she said. “And some people would say that I'm probably still not fully taking it seriously, being I’m still open. But I’m taking the precautions to try and keep myself and those that I am working on healthier and make sure that we aren't coming in contact with other people.”
It’s not business as usual for Wourms, who is dealing with a lack of clientele.
Wourms’ schedule is about 50% of what it normally is. Before the coronavirus pandemic, she saw up to five clients on a typical day. Now, she sees about two or three people a day. Some days, there are no appointments at all.
“If I can even have, you know, 25%, 30%, 40% of my income come in, that's going to help me out more than absolutely nothing,” she said.
Gov. Doug Burgum ordered the closure of bars, restaurants and more to on-site business Thursday, March 19, but said personal services businesses can make their own decisions in regards to shutting down or altering business.
After a few weeks of increased sanitation measures, Tailor Made Barber Studio in Fargo shut its doors temporarily Wednesday, March 25.
The decision to close the shop came after it was released Monday, March 23, that 235 people in Minnesota had been diagnosed with COVID-19 total.
“Looking at the numbers in North Dakota, there’s just not enough information out there. So we’re running that risk of just not knowing,” said Leane LaFrance, co-owner of Tailor Made with her husband, Brendan. “As a small business owner, you go, ‘What is the risk that we run here?’”
Leane and Brendan remained open as long as they felt comfortable. Tailor Made first implemented an enhanced cleaning schedule; every hard surface or touch-area was wiped down with Barbicide wipes, an EPA-registered disinfectant, every two hours.
As more information was released from the CDC, Tailor Made extended appointment times from 30 minutes to an hour — cutting its foot traffic in half — to ensure there would be enough time to sanitize everything and the next client wouldn’t be waiting in the shop.
“The barbers are wearing gloves on top of washing their hands between every customer,” Leane said. “...It’s a lot of steps. It takes some time, but on top of that, it gets heavy on the hands.”
Customers had to wash their hands when they entered, and sanitize on the way out. Tailor Made also enacted a no guest policy.
The uncertainty of where to weigh the precautions for others and herself left too much risk, Leane said.
“This hasn’t been easy for any owner. If people are still operating, it’s gotta be their decision within reason. And it’s really a hard one. For us, it wasn’t easy either. When we were still open the last few weeks, we had people who weren't OK with that. I think this is just a tough time for everyone, and to stay mindful of that.”
Across town, Dead Rockstar has been sitting empty without any jewelry since Saturday, March 14, when the last artists wrapped up their final clients.
“I've never experienced anything remotely close to this. We've always been able to stay open, regardless of what outside factors were,” said Chuck Kesler, one of Dead Rockstar’s owners.
That wasn’t the case this time. Something Kesler took into immediate consideration when he closed the shop March 17 was the industry he’s in compromises people’s immune systems to a certain degree, he said.
“If you get a tattoo or piercing, your body has to heal up what’s technically a wound,” Kesler said. “So another part of that is, if we're compromising people's immune systems in an indirect way, it's making them more susceptible to anything that's out there.”
Technically, it’s probably the equivalent to scraping a knee, Kesler added.
“I guess morally, it just felt like the right thing to do, but it was very difficult,” he said.
Kesler said there’s a lot to weigh mentally when responsible for another person’s income and livelihood.
To ease the financial blow, Dead Rockstar is encouraging the purchase of gift cards, so the business has some income coming in while they’re not open, and is giving an extra $15 for every $100 spent.
“To help out with employee wages, or at least give them enough money to get some groceries for the next couple of weeks or whatever it is,” Kesler said.
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