Kim Hannon spent Friday morning blasting country music, buying fresh flowers and chilling champagne as she prepared to reopen her boutique, Ophiuroidea, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“I am just so excited to reopen. I knew I had to pop some champagne right at 5 p.m.,” Hannon said, as she rearranged furniture one more time in her store, full of aqua hues meant to elicit a sense of calm in shoppers. After months of watching her sales plummet, Hannon plans to broadcast the moment she unlocks her doors this evening on Facebook Live.
Businesses up and down the Eastern Shore are allowed to reopen for the first time at 5 p.m. Friday, following the decision by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to ease his stay-at-home order. Some business owners such as Hannon are counting down the hours until the clock strikes five.
Others are taking a more cautious approach, waiting a day or more to welcome customers indoors. Leaders in the area are on heightened alert for an influx of tourists from more infected parts of the region, who might be passing through Kent Narrows on their way to newly open Ocean City.
“Businesses know that we are going to be watching them, and we want to be successful,” said Todd Mohn, administrator of Queen Anne’s County. Queenstown Outlet Mall, a major hub in the county, will not reopen until 11 a.m. Saturday, taking the extra time to make sure all the necessary protocols are in place.
A Little Lovely Coffee House, located in the outlet complex, will not reopen its doors until more of its neighboring shops decide to do the same. That could take many weeks, according to Samantha Zippilli, the coffee shop’s owner.
“It takes a lot of time for stores to regroup, getting their employees back and reorganizing floor displays while staying safe,” she said. “While most of the center is still closed, it makes it hard for us to really open.”
When the outlet does reopen, it will look far different from what it did before shuttering in March. Signs will pepper the venue describing store capacity, and dividers will separate entryways to dictate the flow of traffic. Public seats will be spaced six feet apart, and escalators will have markers where people can safely stand, according to information provided by Simon Property, which owns the outlet’s real estate.
Nine miles down the road, Stacie McGinnes is scrambling to get her shop, Half Full Gift Boutique, ready to reopen Saturday morning.
“As soon as I lay my eyes on my customers, I will be overjoyed,” McGinnes said, her voice breaking. “They will have two really, really happy store owners ready to greet them, though not with the hugs they are used to.”
McGinnes has spent the past week cleaning her store and will spend Friday making final adjustments such as putting hand sanitizer on the front table. She feels ready to open, she said, and will greet her customers Saturday without nerves. “I am just faithful and confident that people will step up and do the right thing,” she said. “We waste too much energy being fearful of things we can’t control.”
UPDATE: At 5 p.m. on the dot, Kim Hannon yelped with joy as she unfurled her blue and white “Open” sign, which waved proudly outside her Eastern Shore boutique, Ophiuroidea. “Two months baby, it’s been a long two months,” she said to her phone, where she was live-streaming the grand reopening to her followers on Facebook. She then swung open her doors, blasted the song “Celebrate” and poured champagne for her first three customers, strewn about the store in masks.
“Well this is just about the weirdest opening I have ever been to,” said Gigi Windley, executive director of Kent Narrows Development Foundation. “How are we going to drink champagne with our masks on?”
In normal times, it would have been a slow day for Hannon, who is used to swarms of customers on a bright May Friday like this one. But as she poured another glass of champagne, which was positioned right next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, she felt nothing short of “awesome.”