Business, but not as usual

St. Charles County has slowly begun to reopen several businesses that had been closed due to COVID-19

By Brett Auten

It was a return, but it was far from normal.

The St. Charles County area reopened several business doors last week that had been closed due to COVID-19. Beginning last week, the statewide restrictions on social gatherings were gone and every business was free to reopen, according to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

Main Street Salon has been a fixture in Old St. Charles for 15 years. Owner Billy Woodson and staff are usually booking clients every 90-minutes. Now, they are spaced out two-to-two-and-a-half hours so that extra cleaning and sanitizing can be performed. Stylists are also donning personal protective equipment.

“The girls are all taking their time with this and wiping everything down like crazy,” Woodson said. “Everybody was ready to get back to work and all the clients felt great about us opening up.”

Main Street Salon’s phone was ringing off the hook all week. But appointments were scheduled for existing clients only.

“A lot of clients, especially those who are older, waited patiently and they were pretty much at the top of the list to get in first,” Main Street Salon’s Molly Sczepanski said. “It has been working out quite well,”

Woodson is feeling a bit trepidatious about how long this will last.

“I am kind of scared that there will be another hiatus,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think we will have another closure somewhere down the line.”

You would be challenged to find a more anxious group to get back after than those in the fitness industry and its customers who are craving a shot of exercise dopamine.

O’Fallon’s Powerbody USA Fitness Center was one of the few – if only – gyms to open its doors last week. Powerbody USA is a literal ‘Mom and Pop’ organization, so it had a little more flexibility to open than the more commercial, box gyms.

“We are thrilled to be back open and so are our members,” Chuck Trosper, who along with his wife Carla, owns Powerbody USA. “They were going crazy.”

Powerbody USA caters both to serious powerlifting competitors and regular folks just looking to get a pump on. Trosper said he didn’t lose any members during the time away but did have some personal trainers jump ship.

“(The quarantine) definitely put a hurt on us,” Trosper said. “For the people who are into fitness and couldn’t get access to equipment for home gyms because people were jacking up the prices on Craigslist, they were ready for us to return.”

Craig Uttendorf is one of the co-owners of St. Charles’ Gingham’s Homestyle Restaurant, a staple for both early birds and night owls. Gingham’s started taking dine-in service on May 6.

“It has been a little mixed,” Uttendorf said of attendance. “On the first day, there were a lot of regulars who wanted to see the staff. We had a lot of older folks come in. Some were in wheelchairs, another was on oxygen. For them to get out to see us during all that is going on is pretty special.”

Uttendorf had to make several adjustments to ready for dine-in customers again. Among them, he pulled out furniture and tables to allow for proper social distancing, constructed Plexiglas walls, restructured the entrances and exits, and eliminated the guest seating area. Patrons can wait either in their car or outside, and a text will inform them when their table is ready. Not only are all employees wearing masks and gloves, but the waitresses are not allowed to touch the food. A professional sanitation crew is also scheduled to come in three times a week. Uttendorf leaned on information from the Center for Disease Control and other officials within his industry.

“There is so much information and guidance out there for restaurants when they decide to come back,” Uttendorf said. “I feel like we have done everything we needed and maybe more.”

Gingham’s has always been a 24-hour-a-day establishment but Uttendorf has curbed the closing time.

“We have always done a ton of business on the later shifts,” Uttendorf said. “But right now with no Lindenwood, no casinos, no concerts and no baseball; we are just going to play it by ear for the next couple of weeks.”