WATAUGA — Local retail businesses prepared to reopen on May 8 under Phase 1 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan for reopening the state following COVID-19-related shutdowns and restrictions. However, in Phase 1, stores are limited to 50 percent of their regular capacities.

On May 6, the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock announced that while the shopping center is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily, “individual retailer store hours will continue to vary” during the phased reopening of the state.

“As such, we encourage shoppers to check with individual retailers before planning a visit,” the announcement noted. To inquire about individual retailers, visit www.tangeroutlets.com or call the Tanger Outlet office in Blowing Rock at (828) 295-4444.

Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Charles Hardin said that the phased reopening will let businesses ease into the new reality of operating a business during a pandemic “one toe at a time.”

Hardin reported on May 7 that the Rock Relief Fund, which was put in place to award grants to local Blowing Rock businesses during COVID-19, raised more than $100,000, and its grant committee is awarding up to $5,000 to businesses in need. Applications for grants from the Rock Relief Fund closed on April 30.

In order to assist downtown businesses with their reopenings, Hardin said that members of the chamber of commerce will be distributing resources, such as fliers, posters, brochures and “Open” signs, to businesses on May 8-9 to help spread the word that they’re open.

“We’re excited that this is a step forward because we have been so restricted to this point. I think a lot of people have cabin fever, and they’re going to get out and do something since they can. We’re glad there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Hardin said.

Regardless, Hardin mentioned that the “county-level restriction” regarding public facilities eliminates the ability of visitors to use the public restrooms located in downtown Blowing Rock.

This is a concern since most small businesses within the town do not offer public restrooms, according to Hardin, and restaurants are not allowed to open dining areas until Phase 2.

That “only leaves one public restroom in the town,” Hardin said, mentioning that that restroom is located in a grocery store.

Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jackson said that, under the restrictions, customers can “expect to be asked to wait outside at times if a store is busy.”

“These businesses are not going to be opening with the same procedures in place that were used when they closed,” Jackson said. “Give them some time to get adjusted, and I’m sure they will be equally as forgiving in reminding customers about using responsible behavior while shopping. Things will get easier as we move forward and become used to a new routine.”

The shopping centers reopening include the Boone Mall, according to mall manager C.K. Golden-Fields. Golden-Fields noted “a few stores that are not allowed to reopen until Phase 2, including Mane Habit Salon and Mi Nail Salon. Also restaurants like Tuckers and Eleven80 will be waiting to see what happens before reopening.”

Shear Shakti and The Care Collective in Boone will reopen the retail aspects of its operation — but not the salon — on Monday, May 11, after undergoing a number of renovations.

Megan Ward, who manages The Care Collective and some of Shear Shakti’s social media accounts, said that the businesses “plan to ease back into business slowly and safely” with limited retail hours.

This includes offering medically necessary massage appointments, which customers can register for after obtaining a referral from their doctor and completing Shear Shakti’s COVID-19 questionnaire.

Shear Shakti will be open from 2-3:30 p.m. May 11-15.

Additionally, some businesses could make the decision to close their doors permanently, in part because of the financial impacts that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IHOP restaurant located on Blowing Rock Road in Boone informed its employees in late March that the store would close with no plans of reopening, according to representatives of the restaurant chain.

As of May 7, Jackson said, the Boone chamber was not aware of any other store closures in Boone, but he’s “sure there will be a few more” as the full financial impacts of COVID-19 hit.

The Boone Chamber of Commerce, as a part of its #KeepBooneHealthy campaign, has assembled a list of local businesses expected to open under Phase 1, similar to the list of restaurants offering take-out and delivery that the chamber released at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jackson.

The list, which is updated as updates are available, is online at https://www.boonechamber.com/restaurantsandretail.

More information from the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce can be found online at https://blowingrockncchamber.com.

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