TW file photo
Many shops on Fourth Avenue are not racing to open their doors today.
Retail and cosmetology shops are officially allowed to reopen to the public today under Gov. Doug Ducey’s modified stay-at-home order, but many owners around Historic Fourth Avenue are opting to stay closed until COVID case numbers decrease in Pima County.
Under the state’s new reopening guidance, retail businesses will need to limit their occupancy based on size, screen employees for COVID symptoms before they start their shift, and close fitting rooms, meeting rooms and any other enclosed space customers may encounter.
“We still think it’s a little premature to be opening. All the numbers are still high,” said Pop-Cycle Co-Owner DeeDee Koenen. “It doesn’t feel like it’s a good time for us to reopen like that, so we’re going to stay closed to the public.”
Koenen said the store has moved to online sales since the pandemic hit. The shop, which sells the kitschy wares of local artists, has always had an online presence but was never as populated with their one-of-a-kind products as it is today, Koenen said. She would like to see the local COVID case number decrease before reopening her shop to public perusal.
“We’re going to continue to sell online and we’ll have curbside pickup, mail or delivery options available,” Koenen said. “ On (May) 15, we’ll come back together and reevaluate how we’re feeling. We may implement a by-appointment-only policy at that time and we’ll do another check around June 1.”
Silver Sea Jewelry Owner Lizzie Mead isn’t even considering reopening to the public until at least June 1, she said. While she is still selling her goods online, Mead moved the majority of her products out of her shop at the start of the shutdown after security camera footage showed someone casing the joint for a potential robbery. She is trying to avoid the hassle of moving inventory back and forth to the shop, should the virus continue to spread and the economy is shut down once again.
“I can’t move back in and move out again. That’s what makes it super weird for me,” Mead said. “It took me a full week to prepare everything and move it. Everything is off the displays and such. I think it would take me a week to prep the store and get it open again. ”
Mead said her reluctance to reopen could be paranoia, but she isn't taking any chances. She has a good security system and her shop is insured, but it would take Mead months to remake her handmade jewelry should it be stolen.
“Some of this stuff takes hours and hours and hours to make,” Mead said. “About 30 percent of my store is handmade and I couldn’t make enough stock to get restocked if something happened.”
Gabe Romero, owner of 1972 Barbershop, is reopening his shop today at its new location off 4th Avenue, on Seventh Street in the former Rosie’s Barket location. He signed a lease a week prior to the March 17 shutdown. The internationally famous barber said he took the time to build his new shop himself, saving a lot of money.
“I was going to be closed down for a month anyway, so it gave me a chance to build my shop the way I wanted to,” Romero said. “I got my hands in there and built a lot of it by myself. It was a great feeling.”
Romero has always been a by-appointment-only barber, typically booked out a week or more in advance before the shutdown. Now he’s booked nearly a month in advance due to limiting his schedule to five haircuts per day until he feels more confident in the situation, he said.
“We’re only doing five haircuts a day until we’re more comfortable about it,” Romero said. “A lot of (barbers) are still afraid...I’m not going to say afraid but cautious. Too many people are acting like (COVID-19) is gone but it’s not.”
Executive Director of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Accosication Fred Ronstadt is cautiously optimistic about retail, salons and barbershops reopening in the area. His main concern is shops having to close down again should the return to business be premature.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. We don’t want to be in a situation where the ruling authority, whether it be city or state, takes a future action that would necessitate us having to go back to where we are today,” Ronstadt said. “The cost of opening prematurely and closing again is higher than just staying closed a few more days.”
Ronstadt said his group and the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce have been working hard to figure out the best practices for implementing the state’s new guidance. He hopes the community will heed the advice given to keep everyone safe while reopening amid a pandemic.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to human nature and I just think we all need to work together and do the best we can,” Ronstadt said. “There’s a big social contract where we all understand we all need to be responsible in order to continue to conduct our lives outside of living in a hole.”