Downtown Salmon Arm has launched its latest campaign to let people know that the city’s downtown merchants are open, or are reopening for business. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

COVID-19 adds cost for reopening downtown Salmon Arm businesses

Owners happy for return of regular customers but still have concerns

A physically-distanced cluster of customers sat outside Martina’s Classic Barber Shoppe in downtown Salmon Arm, awaiting their turn in one of two chairs within.

Inside the shop on Thursday, May 21, manager Tamara Timmers and staff were busy removing the curls and locks of individuals who have been waiting for a haircut since March 21, when the B.C. government ordered barbershops and salons closed as part of the effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, May 19, when Martina’s reopened, Timmers said things got emotional for her, with so many faces returning that she hadn’t seen since the shop closed.

“I missed work, I missed talking to people,” said Timmers.

But being back behind the barber chair, with the virus still a reality, was also cause for some concern.

“I honestly don’t think this industry is ready to be open yet,” said Timmers, noting it’s not a job were you can maintain a two-metre distance from customers. “I feel like this is a test to see if numbers increase due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

That said, Timmers had invested in the precautions prescribed for her industry, including face masks for workers and customers, one apron per customer and sanitizers for hands and barber tools. In addition, customer visits were spaced out to allow time in between for sanitization. Services were also adjusted, including no shaves and no blow drying.

Given the cost of all this, Timmers said prices may need to be adjusted.

Salmon Arm Barber Shop’s Matt Koivisto said he’d spent a lot of money on COVID-19 related improvements, from partitions between chairs to personal protective equipment (PPE). To help recover some of the cost, he’s had to add a PPE fee. In addition to equipment, Koivisto said he also had to factor in having fewer customers per day to allow for sanitization time in between. On a positive note, in addition to the closure allowing time to renovate and expand his shop, Koivisto was able acquire several industry-related certifications, among them International Master Barber status.

With bookings into the coming week, Koivisto said he was as prepared as he could be for COVID-19.

“It’s evolving as it goes along and we’re just trying to roll with the punches as we can, and do the best we can and try to stay as safe,” said Koivisto.

Across the street from Koivisto, people were seated outside the Pink Cherry enjoying a beverage. Owner Angie Alder said they were not quire ready for indoor dining.

The cost involved in providing COVID-19 precautions were a concern for the restaurateur, who currently takes food and drink orders from behind a sheet of plexiglass. Adding to her concerns were the cancellation of numerous city events in response to the virus, including Roots and Blues and the Salmon Arm Fair, as well as recent news from BC Parks that Albertans with reservations to stay in provincial campgrounds were being cancelled.

“We’re missing out on that too because we had a lot of people from Alberta come here last summer,” said Alder.

Down the block, Hungry Panda Curbside Noodles had been back in business for about three weeks, but only for takeout. Owner Stewart Fells was pleased to have been able to bring all the restaurants’s staff back to work.

“We’ve managed to institute policies to keep everyone safe and still carry on with the same quality of service,” said Fells, explaining he actually had more staff working at the same time than in the past to further reduce risk of cross-contamination.

Fells said costs had gone up – the cost of food significantly – but he’d been able to maintain a good price point and the restaurant was keeping busy.

As for dining in, Fells said that likely won’t happen for a while yet.

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Physically distanced customers await their turn outside Martina’s Classic Barber Shoppe on Thursday, May 21. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

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