TALLMADGE – Local businesses are reopening and restaurants are moving tables, building barriers and gathering staff to serve customers in a safe environment.
Mayor David Kline said manufacturing and office space businesses opened May 4 but must practice social spacing and meet cleaning requirements including masks in common areas.
"There were a lot of businesses deemed essential from day one," he said.
On May 12 retail stores opened, but stores like Lowes have been open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mayor said when he visits stores, he wears a mask and his wife has made masks for the Haven of Rest in Akron.
"I wore my mask to lead by example," Kline said. "I don’t want others to say ‘the mayor doesn’t have one, why do I have to wear them?’"
Gov. Mike DeWine announced that all manufacturing, distribution and construction companies and general business offices were permitted to reopen May 4, as long as they institute certain mandatory procedures to ensure the safety of employees, customers and their families.
Consumer retail and services opened May 12. On May 15 hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and spas can open. Restaurants and bars can open with outside dining May 15 and inside dining on May 21. Physical barriers must be in place and parties separated by 6 feet with waiting in cars or a designated space with 10 or less people. No buffet or self-serving salad bars will be allowed.
DeWine said the stay-at-home order is in place to signal that the spread of COVID-19 is still a threat. Gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, although modified for the slow restart.
"This is a step forward, but the stay-at-home order is still in place because it is a signal that things are still dangerous," he said. "This is a marathon and we are in it for the long haul. Best practices are important to get the economy back and keep people safe."
DeWine said employees are recommended to wear face coverings; employees should be assessed to determine if they are healthy; handwashing and social distancing should be practiced; the workplace should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the day, between shifts and at the end of business; and limit capacity to meet social distancing guidelines, such as setting a maximum capacity of 50% established by fire code’s maximum.
Closure continues for massage therapy services, day care centers, senior centers, entertainment and recreation venues, gyms and fitness centers, casinos, fairs and festivals, spectator and recreational sports and campgrounds.
Some of Tallmadge businesses have been open or are opening with the new guidelines.
Seven Grains Natural Market, 92 West Ave., has been open as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner David Krieger said they are currently wearing masks and gloves but it was their individual choice.
"But now the governor’s office has asked people to wear masks, and we’re complying," Kreiger said. "Everyone is sanitizing surfaces and grocery carts. Everyone is conscious of hand washing."
There’s some evidence some things might get a little tight for meat, but the Seven Grains is maintaining and keeping the shelves full, Kreiger said.
"We want to make sure customers can achieve their needs for the dinner table," Kreiger said. "We were fortunate enough to continue on."
Kreiger said none of the 20 staff members was laid off and the primary focus is to keep the staff employed.
Seven Grains also has curbside service with order availability from its website on everything in the store. Lunch and dinner are available through Grub Hub.
Officer Manager Terri Jordan of Ritchies Sporting Goods at 137 South Ave. has been closed since March 23 but plans to open May 12.
Although they have an online store, it didn’t do much business because a lot of sports activities were canceled, Jordan said.
"People wanted senior yard signs and masks with logos," Jordan said. "We’re getting those out."
When Ritchies opens May 12 they can do curbside delivery or they will limit the number of people in the store, she said. Their shortened hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday with about 15 customers in the store at a time.
"I’ll have one person watching customers and to sanitize the doors, cash register, and wipe down customer areas," Jordan said. "We called our staff back this week and we’re deep cleaning."
They’re making appointments for the school leather jackets and separating customers who look at shoes, which takes longer.
Ritchie’s has a staff 24 with half full-time, half part-time.
"We’re staggering the shifts for now," she said. "We also reorganizing the store so it’s easier to look through."
Owner Matt Hollingsworth of The Firehouse Grill, Danny Boys and The Venue Banquet at 10 Tallmadge Circle has been open for carryout and is preparing to open outdoor and indoor dining May 21.
"We’re working frantically to get things ready," Hollingsworth said. "Today they are power washing the patio equipment and getting the patio ready."
Although restaurants can open outdoor dining on May 15, Hollingsworth said they are targeting for May 21 to be ready for indoor and outdoor dining. Staff is meeting this week to go over policies.
Managers and kitchen staff remained on for carryout and catering but the 50-member restaurant staff laid off will return for a meeting Thursday and will be phased back as business increases, he said. Hours will be limited in the first week with a fluid plan for business.
"I want staff trained on the new policies of masks, hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing," he said. "I don’t want to rush."
They are also providing disposable menus with options for single use cups, silverware and condiments, he said. In addition, carpets, floors, patios and restrooms are being deep cleaned.
Because most events were canceled for the Venue banquet hall, it can be used as an overflow dining area as well.
"It’s a learning process, but I’m excited," Hollingsworth said. "I have the Firehouse, Danny Boys, two patios and the Venue area. We’re trying to think through all options in advance to accommodate customers, but it’s a fluid process."
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org