Small Businesses Reopening this Week

Salon owner Heather Morris was on family vacation when she made the tough decision to close her businesses’ doors on March 18, even before the state mandated a stay-at-home order.

Morris is the owner and operator for The Retreat Salon and Day Spa in Wiggins as well as the SouthBound Overstock. As other businesses followed and the number of COVID-19 were rising, Morris was scared but tried to make the right decision.

“I felt like it was my civic and ethical responsibility,” Morris says. “It was a terrifying decision to make since we employ seven people, but I do feel we made the right decision.”

As of May 9, there have been 9,501 cases of COVID-19 reported and 430 deaths reported by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Stone County has no reported deaths but 24 cases reported. However, other coastal Mississippi counties have not been as fortunate. Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties have reported a combined total of 547 cases and 27 deaths so far.

Now that guidelines for small businesses are being eased this week, Morris was busy preparing to re-open May 11, along with other small businesses listed in the new guidelines.

In the weeks in between, Morris said, many locals still supported her business by buying gift cards and adding their names to a waitlist for appointments.

“Even though gift card sales were down tremendously for Mother’s Day, I am blown away that we sold any,” Morris said. “People have been so sweet and supportive and I am just so thankful!”

The Retreat’s new operating guidelines will require masks for employees and those being serviced, but Morris says they can still provide all their regular services like massages and skin care because they will limit capacity to 10 people and everything will be sanitized in between each customer.

“Our team has been working tirelessly to become familiar with all of the new guidelines and navigating how we need to adjust booking our guests so that they can be comfortable and safe and still have a relaxing experience,” Morris said. “A lot of the guidelines are already followed by salons per (the) state board, so the biggest change for us, aside from wearing masks, is going to be making sure we stay under the 10 person limit.

The Retreat is currently only accepting customers by appointment, which can be made over the phone.

“It is going to take us some time to get our timing all ironed out, but we are so thankful to be able to open back up and see our guests,” Morris said.

There are 15 publicly listed salons with a Wiggins or Stone County address on Google. There are two public gyms listed, AnyTime Fitness of Wiggins and Total Body Fitness. Both gyms were unavailable for comment, but AnyTime Fitness announced new guidelines for members on their Facebook page on May 8.

"The moment we’ve all been waiting for!” the post says. "We are ecstatic to welcome you back and cannot wait time see you in our facility.”

The gym announced it would open the morning of May 11 after undergoing a “deep clean.”

According to the guidelines listed, those with COVID-19 symptoms will not be served and customers will be screened for symptoms prior to entering the gym. Members must stay the recombined 6 feet apart at all times, whether they are using exercise machines or in group fitness activities.

As for restaurants, they may resume indoor service under the new guidelines, but with several limitations.

According to the state guidelines, restaurants are limited to 50 percent capacity, so diners may have adequate space from each other. Buffets and food stations must be served by restaurant staff and have safer barriers that limit food exposure. No open, self-serving food stations are allowed.

Additionally, all restaurants must provide hand sanitizer at all entrances, near bathrooms and at cashier stations, among other sanitation guidelines.

Gov. Tate Reeves said did not want to strangle local economies by keeping businesses closed, but urges citizens to make wise choices for the sake of their own health and the health of their loved ones.

“As we work to re-open our economy, that is not a signal that the threat of the virus is gone,” Reeves wrote on his public Facebook page Friday. “Do not mistake my efforts to protect people from the Great Depression threat for a belief that the public health threat is not real…. It is a shift in strategy because months of making it illegal for small businesses to operate is not sustainable.”

After the Governor officially announced he would be easing restrictions on more small businesses, elected officials immediately decided to follow his lead.

Mayor Joel Miles said the City of Wiggins will follow the State’s guidelines for re-opening.

“We’re just excited we are able to open up as much as the governor allows,” Miles said Monday morning. "We are looking forward to getting back to normalcy.”