The north country’s economy got a big boost Wednesday with the news that retailers, the real estate industry and furniture stores can reopen for business early Friday morning after being closed for more than two months because of the coronavirus.
Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Legislature, got the good news from the governor’s office during a meeting of the so-called Control Room.
“We’re rolling into Phase II at 12:01 a.m. Friday,” he said. “We’re good to go.”
As part of expanding the economy’s reopening, the Salmon Run Mall can open its doors as early as Friday. Mall officials declined to comment on Wednesday, saying they would soon have more news about its opening.
Hair salons, tattoo shops, massage therapy services also are coming on board during Phase II, but the time frame for those businesses are still being worked out, Mr. Gray said. Their opening should come soon.
Guidelines on exactly how they’ll open under state social distancing rules should be announced perhaps as soon as Wednesday night, he said.
The developments came two weeks after Phase I went into effect, in which manufacturing and construction and curbside sales for retailers began.
Mr. Gray also got the word that tour boats can open immediately on Wednesday.
“The weekend will be busy,” he said.
Opening of dining in restaurants is expected to get the go-ahead in Phase III if seven metrics for the pandemic continue to be met over the next two weeks.
Shawn E. Massey, owner of Massey’s Furniture Barn on Arsenal Street, said it’s been a long two months.
“We’re glad to be back,” he said.
For much of the pandemic, the furniture store was completely dark, with curbside and internet sales allowed during just the past two weeks.
At first, he had a skeletal crew coming into work and then about 15 people during the past two weeks. He’ll now be able to employ the store’s full workforce of 21 now that Phase II is in gear.
To see how things go at first, the store will initially be open a limited number of hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
If curbside sales are any indication of what is to come, he’s optimistic about the local economy.
“I have a great feeling that the economy might bounce back,” he said.
Since March, Connie Johnston, who co-owns Sportsman’s Barbershop, has been talking to her customers just to see how they were all doing since the country shut down.
“I liked my time off, but I’ll be glad to see them,” she said.
She and the others who work at the popular State Street barbershop will be testing a system they’ve put into place to keep customers safe before the official opening, probably on Monday morning.
“It’ll be a little bit of a dry run,” she said.
A maximum of four customers can wait inside the shop, she said. If more than that are there to get a haircut, customers will sign in on a dry board and then wait in their cars until they’re called.
No beards or facial hair trimmings will be allowed.
“It’ll be good to be back to normal, get too see the customers, trying to get back to reality,” she said.
Lance Evans, executive officer for the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence Board of Realtors, agreed it will be good to see clients again.
“That’s great news for real estate buyers and sellers,” he said.
Under the state PAUSE order, Realtors could only sell homes through virtual sales.
That meant potential buyers could not attend open houses or go through the homes during the past two months. They had to see the homes on video.
During the crisis, a group of officials from several surrounding counties — called the Control Room — have led the reopening efforts.
Mr. Gray warned businesses to follow the state’s guidelines or they could end up in trouble with the state’s attorney general’s office.