As county retailers worked in May to get their businesses back into gear after weeks of pandemic closures, they had to balance the safety of their employees and patrons with pushback from customers who didn’t want to mask up and who even got confrontational about it in some cases.
When The Admiralty, 2221 Strand St., and Tina’s on The Strand, 2326 Strand St., — both in downtown Galveston — reopened their doors at limited capacity May 1, shop owner Wendy Morgan wanted to keep her employees as safe as possible, she said.
The stores required people to wear masks and, while many people were happy to comply, some were not, Morgan said.
“You’re trying to do something helpful,” Morgan said. “When people get angry and start cussing you out, what are you going to do?”
Morgan stopped requiring people to wear masks shortly before Memorial Day, although employees still encourage masking, she said.
Initially, the store also was providing masks to anyone who wanted to walk inside and didn’t have one, but that proved too costly, Morgan said.
“We gave out 200 masks in a 24-hour period and that became unsustainable,” Morgan said.
Gracie’s, 2228 Strand St., tried out mandatory masking, too, but stopped the requirement after two weeks, owner Genette Bassett said.
“It was a big battle,” Bassett said.
Now, store staff is requesting that people wear masks, but it wasn’t worth the requirement after people starting getting confrontational with staff, Bassett said.
“You want to welcome your customers,” Bassett said. “It’s a very fine line.”
Gracie’s staff instead is being vigilant about providing hand sanitizer and asking people to keep 6 feet from others.
Bassett is thankful to be open after for almost two months but wants to keep staff and customers as safe as possible, she said.
Retail, especially small businesses, took a hard hit when Gov. Greg Abbott in March ordered statewide closures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Many closed their doors or transitioned only to pick-up orders during spring break, what normally would have been the start to the busy summer season.
On May 1, beaches fully reopened, restaurants began welcoming back limited capacity seating and retail began opening up, and visitors began streaming eagerly to Galveston.
Despite how hard it is to stay closed, some business owners have been taking a slower approach.
Tangerine Boutique, 2218 Postoffice St. in downtown Galveston, had been open for appointments only until Friday, when the shop reopened with limited hours, owner Kim Cherryhomes said.
“I took a hit from it, but I have no regrets,” Cherryhomes said. “I knew it was what I had to do.”
Tangerine Boutique’s online sales haven’t matched pre-coronavirus sales, but they’ve been good, Cherryhomes said.
Most people respect her request that they wear a mask in her store, but some don’t want to, she said.
“I had people come through this weekend that said, ‘I don’t believe in the mask,’” Cherryhomes said.