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One storefront closes for good

Belfast businesses slowly reopen, with wary eye on future

By Kendra Caruso | May 12, 2020
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Glow owner Kimberly Riposta dyes a client's hair May 8 while both wear face masks in accordance with reopening rules.

Belfast — Kimberly Riposta started offering hair services at her salon, Glow, at the beginning of May when Gov. Janet Mills’ staggered reopening initiative began. She said Glow had been closed down since mid-March, which left her with over a month’s worth of missed pay.

She applied for a small business loan to replace some of her lost revenue, but said she is not eligible for support from many of the government’s emergency programs.

She and two other stylists can now take hair appointments, but must work under the governor’s order, which restricts how many customers can be in her building. Everyone inside must wear face masks and she cannot offer any services other than hair appointments.

She is booking a month’s worth of those appointments, but said business is still not up to its usual level for this time of year. She said many of her summer residents are either in a mandated 14-day quarantine or have not yet come to the state.

Despite frustrations with the governor’s personal protection mandates, customers have been respectful and understanding of the protocols she must follow.

Before Mills allowed small rural businesses to open up, Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Ryan said business owners were very discouraged with the strict limitations that prevent many businesses from opening.

He said the restaurant industry has taken critical hits from the shutdown and that takeout is not an efficient way to bring in an adequate amount of revenue to sustain the businesses. “There’s a realization that takeout doesn’t pay the bills, and having to continue it into the summer season is going to put a lot of people behind the eight ball,” he said.

Many owners have been approved for small business loans, he said, but that money is not going to carry businesses for long.

Ryan said he was pleased to hear the governor’s rural reopening plan, which allowed 12 Maine counties to start opening nonessential stores starting May 11. Restaurants will be allowed to open May 18, provided that they make accommodations for social distancing.

“It’s a big step forward for retailers to be able to open, even with the limitations and the additional steps they need to take to make their shops compliant,” he wrote in an email. “It will generate more badly needed revenue and bring workers back, both of which will help the businesses, but it is not a full return to normal.

“That seems like it will still take some time. The area of focus right now will need to be innovation to adjust to the new rules, and conscientious practices to assure the safety of both customers and employees.”

But for local occult shop Alder and Vine, that relief has come too late. It announced on Facebook in March that it closed its storefront for good, partly because of the coronavirus shutdown. The business will continue to sell products out of the owners’ private residence, according to a Facebook post.

“Alright, so here's the bad news," the post read. "We have decided to close our physical storefront. In light of the current COVID-19 chaos and such unclear times ahead, we are not renewing our lease. We adore our community and will miss the space that we have."

Riposta said if another shutdown were to be ordered, it could have the potential to end her 8-year-old business. “If we shut down for another couple of months, we won’t be able to make it,” she said.

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Belfast businesses slowly reopen, with wary eye on future
Glow employee Karen Jacobs sanitizes a hair washing station May 8 in accordance with Gov. Janet Mills' rural reopening requirements. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Glow stylist Aspen Ventura cuts a customer's hair May 8 while both are wearing face masks in accordance with the governor's Rural Reopening Plan. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Glow owner Kimberly Riposta dyes a client's hair May 8 while both wear face masks in accordance with reopening rules. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Kimberly Riposta stands in her Belfast hair salon, Glow, May 8 as she prepares to dye a customer's hair. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at waldo.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at waldo.villagesoup.com/donate.
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