City businesses ready to reopen, welcome customers next week

Ronald E. Carrington | 5/21/2020, 6 p.m. | Updated on 5/22/2020, 7:10 p.m.
Renada Harris, owner of Silk Hair Studio on Broad Street near Virginia Commonwealth University spent last Thursday calling clients to …
Hair stylists Renada Harris, 39, left, and Kim Washington, 52, make preparations to reopen Silk Hair Studio, which they have co-owned for 12 years. The shop in the 1600 block of West Broad Street has been shuttered since March 24, but they hope the shutdown will end next week when Richmond enters Phase One of the state’s reopening. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Renada Harris, owner of Silk Hair Studio on Broad Street near Virginia Commonwealth University spent last Thursday calling clients to cancel appointments made for Friday, May 15, the date businesses were to partially reopen under Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s executive order.

But when Mayor Levar M. Stoney requested and was granted an 11th-hour delay for Richmond to remain closed another two weeks because of the jump in the number of COVID-19 cases, Ms. Harris suddenly had to change gears and quickly notify clients that their hair appointments were canceled at Silk.

“My clients were very understanding and patient of the schedule change, yet baffled because of the confusion,” said Ms. Harris, who had sanitized her shop from top to bottom and waited until two days before the expected reopening to take appointments.

She was frustrated to see customers coming and going at the Lowe’s home improvement store across the street. Because it falls into the category of an essential business under the executive order, Lowe’s has remained open during the pandemic, a privilege Ms. Harris wished her business had.

Her plan for reopening was worked out, she said. She would take only one client at a time, with people wearing face coverings and washing their hands when they enter.

The irony, she said, was her location. If her salon was situated just a few miles west on Broad Street in Henrico County, she would have been open for business on May 15.

Even as people went to Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties last week to shop, have their hair done or dine at restaurants’ outdoor patios that were allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, not all merchants in the counties were open for business.

Anita Hill-Moses, a natural hair stylist who owns B.A.D. Braids and Dreds in Chesterfield, said she doesn’t plan to reopen until early June.

And even then, she said, she will use all of the safety precautions outlined by the state and regional health authorities — one client at a time after a forehead temperature check, stylists and clients alike wearing masks and washing their hands and frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the shop.

This sign on the front door of Silk Hair Studio reminds people that masks are required for entry into the building.

This sign on the front door of Silk Hair Studio reminds people that masks are required for entry into the building.

She and her four stylists were shut down for several weeks under the state’s COVID-19 order. During that time, Ms. Hill-Moses turned to social media to reinvent her business and stay afloat. Braids and Dreds has a line of hair care products that she began to sell via the internet. “My product line has been my saving grace and has helped me a lot financially,” Ms. Hill-Moses said.

“I have been doing a lot of online workshops with my clients with tips on how to take care of their hair at home,” she said. “The product line has gone crazy because everything they need is available.”

Many of Richmond’s black-owned restaurants have turned to take-out to survive the crisis. The majority of them are small, seating fewer than 100 diners, and don’t have outdoor seating, so they won’t have patio seating when the city plans to reopen on May 28 at the earliest.

Morgan Littleton, co-owner of Family Secrets restaurant in the Brookhill Azalea Shopping Center on North Side, said the restaurant is doing well with take-out business and will continue to provide that service.

He said during the initial days of the pandemic closure, he and his father, co-owner Reggie Littleton, were just surviving.

“A catering job for Costco and their employees reignited business,” Mr. Littleton said of the restaurant’s turning point. “Dad and I opened (for take-out) when customers started to ask about us.”

Family Secrets is not planning to reopen its dining room if the business must comply with social distancing.

“We are a small business, accommo- dating less than 90 (people), and social distancing would cause long waits,” Mr. Littleton said. “We also could be held libel is someone gets sick in our restaurant if they contract the coronavirus by another diner sneezing on them.”

Croaker’s Spot, another well-known eatery with locations in Richmond and Petersburg, is only doing take-out despite the Petersburg restaurant having an outdoor dining area.

“The take-out business has boomed since we closed the main dining room,” said employee Journee Littlejohn.

She said no decision has been made on whether the outdoor dining in Petersburg will open.