Retailers reopen in phase one

  • TJ Bailey For Men on Main Street reopened its doors on May 8.
    TJ Bailey For Men on Main Street reopened its doors on May 8.

Highlands retailers have been given the green light to resume business operations albeit under restricting conditions as the state looks to dig out from underneath the COVID-19 pandemic.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s phase one executive order went into effect on May 8 and will expire on Friday. The end of the order does not mean the state will automatically move to phase two. According to state documents, this will happen only if data and health indicators remain stable. 

Chris Wilkes, who owns the Highland Hiker, reopened with phase one. While the state may be loosening restrictions, Wilkes said his store will maintain the status quo of conducting business as when they opened on May 8. It’s all about safety and feeling safe, he said by phone on Tuesday. 

“We’ve got masks for all our staff,” he said. “Plus, masks and gloves for our customers. We’ve installed Plexiglass shields at checkout like they have at the grocery store. We’re keeping our store ultra-clean.” 

The biggest thing is social distancing, Wilkes said, and making sure customers understand the guidelines. 

“There hasn’t been any mandate about the maximum number of people allowed in a store, but we do have a maximum limit of customers we’ll allow in at one time,” he said. “It runs counter to providing the customer one-on-one attention they’ve become used to, making sure clothing items fit, or making sure boots are worn properly.”

Wilkes said it’s all about maintaining a comfort zone after two months of social isolation.

“We’re doing everything we can that makes us feel safe,” he said, “Which makes the customer feel safe.”

Like the Hiker, T.J. Bailey’s for Men on Main Street opened as part of Phase One, opening on Saturday May 9. According to Joan Shryosk, the men’s clothier plans on maintaining the same safety and social distancing measures it has implemented over the past two weeks. 

“We have all the safety measures, masks and gloves, hand sanitizer, Plexiglass,” she said. “Our staff wears masks and gloves at all times, but for the customer, wearing a mask is optional.”

There are social distancing measures in place, Shryosk said, no more than 10 customers in the store at a time, but it hasn’t been a problem for one to wait while another checks out. 

“T.J. Bailey’s also offers shopping by appointment,” she said. “A customer can call us and reserve a time to shop and we will be here to assist them and hold them a spot.”

Shryosk said Memorial Day will be a big indicator as to how Highlands moves forward. 

“We’re very hopeful everything will work out okay,” she said.