Megan Hartke Looman’s salon and boutique was quiet Thursday, with only the sound of passing traffic on Main Street in Dieterich echoing throughout the building.
Hartke Looman, owner of The Beehive Boutique Hair and Nail Salon, spent the morning stocking hair and nail stations with Clorox wipes and jotting down clients’ names in the salon appointment book.
Come Monday, the salon will be buzzing with customers as Hartke Looman reopens her business to the public just days after Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan begins.
“I am very nervous about opening, honestly,” she said. “Not that we’re going to get sick or what have you, but it’s just basically what opening looks like and all of the stuff that has gone into preparing to open.”
Salons are among the previously shuttered industries in Illinois that are reopening, just over two months since Pritzker ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses. Pritzker announced earlier this month that every region of the state would be entering Phase 3 by the end of May.
A week prior to the May 29 reopening date, the Illinois Department of Public Health released guidelines to assist businesses with health and safety measures. Still, Hartke Looman found herself making a phone call to the Effingham County Health Department just days before opening to inquire about whether or not masks were required rather than just recommended.
One of Hartke Looman’s biggest worries is keep her cleaning supplies stocked. She sought Clorox wipes for six weeks and now has six to split between hair stations, nail stations, massage areas and the front desk.
Disinfecting protocols outlined in the IDPH guidelines for salons and barbershops tout cleaning of the entire premises on a weekly basis and cleaning frequently touched and high-traffic areas every two hours. This includes cleaning work stations after each customer use.
The Beehive Boutique will also implement a release form customers would fill out before their appointment. The form asks questions such as if the customer has recently experienced COVID-19 symptoms and if they have traveled out of the country.
Hartke Looman said she worries about time management once she reopens. She said clients are typically scheduled between other clients who are nearly finished with their appointment; such scheduling is not allowed as to keep capacity in salons at 10 people or less.
Because of the extra cleaning procedures and limited number of people allowed in the salon, Hartke Looman said she is working 15 to 16 hours on both Monday and Tuesday next week.
“I’m so excited to see all my clients but I am just also very fearful of what the time management might be,” Hartke Looman said.
Hartke Looman said its almost as if the state government does not understand how clean the hair dressing industry was already prior to the pandemic.
“It’s almost mind-boggling how many restrictions there are. I feel like they don’t really know our industry because our industry was already clean before ... and I don’t feel like we’re doing anything different than we did before COVID. We’re wiping everything and sanitizing it. Now it’s just more in depth with having to wear a mask,” Hartke Looman said.
With two additional stylists and a by-appointment-only massage therapist, Hartke Looman said the salon and clothing boutique will easily comply with the gathering restrictions.
The Beehive Boutique staff will get its first taste of reopening to customers on Saturday as the stylists prep a wedding party. Hartke Looman said the slower pace of a four- to six-person party will help her and the other stylists navigate a new normal.
Don’t expect to nab an appointment within the next week, though. Hartke Looman said that she and the stylists are already fully booked through the end of the first week of June.
That doesn’t mean more clients won’t be penciled in in coming weeks. Hartke Looman said she is looking forward to reconnecting with clients.
“I feel bad for them because I know they have been waiting just as long as I have been waiting to go back,” Hartke Looman said. “Our clients turn into family. You don’t realize it I think as you’re working how much your clients truly mean to you and how much you’re involved in their lives.”
If anything, Hartke Looman said she hopes the statewide salon closures and shuttering of other non-essential businesses will make patrons appreciate sometimes overlooked workers and industries.
“If anything with this COVID (pandemic), I’m hoping that people start giving this industry a little more credit because, obviously, they need us so badly. You don’t realize what a haircut is because every day you’re just like ‘oh I’ll go in there and get a haircut.’ But it’s when you can’t that makes a difference,” Hartke Looman said.
Restaurants and bars can now serve patrons in person – but only in outdoor seating areas.
Gopher’s Grill in Effingham has been working through the final week of May to set up outdoor dining areas, which owners expect to open on Friday.
Co-owner Kevin Hoene said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the bar and grill to revamp and adapt.
“We started offering carryout and delivery services and added family-sized dinner specials,” Hoene said. “We started working on our outdoor patio on Jefferson (Street) before COVID-19 but have been working hard this week to make sure everything is ready for outdoor dining on Friday. We also rented a huge tent for outdoor dining in our north parking lot that will greatly expand our outdoor seating.”
Fellow co-owner Nick Schuette said the first step toward opening outdoor seating was contacting the county health department and city for guidance on what they were allowed to do.
Schuette said all staff members are required to wear a face mask and patrons are to wear one, except when eating and drinking. There will also be hand sanitizer stations at the entrances of the tent and cafe seating areas. Staff will take up extra cleaning procedures as well.
State guidelines do not allow patrons to wait in the outdoor areas to be seated, so Schuette said the restaurant will be unable to have its normal wait list. The restaurant will also not be able to seat parties of more than six.
Despite the many new restrictions, Schuette said the semi reopening was the right choice.
“It’s a step in the right direction and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to offer service to the public again,” Schuette said.
Friday’s reopening will also be a learning moment for what could be a taste of a new “normal,” Schuette added.
“It’s kind of like when we opened back up for takeout and delivery. You just don’t know what to expect,” Schuette said. “It’s not really a business model that we were designed for. It’s a learning curve, and I think we’re going to learn a lot (Friday) as well. Hopefully, we’ll be able to adapt and overcome and, hopefully, we can make some people happy.”
Hoene said in addition to being able to serve customers in person, having the outdoor seating areas will allow staff to get back to work as well. He said the restaurant was closed completely for a month, causing it to lose revenue and also take staff off the payroll.
Friday’s reopening will hopefully help the bar and grill regain what it has lost, Hoene said.
“We’re very glad that outdoor dining was added to Phase 3, and we hope to transition to the next phase quickly,” Hoene said. “We appreciate how the Effingham community supports locally owned small businesses. We all need your support during this difficult time.”