Local residents rediscovered their favorite stores and restaurants and some new places too, as the state reopened Wednesday after close to two months in hibernation.
Phase one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut plan marked the reemergence of the small business sector as the COVID-19 pandemic comes down from its peak.
The state reopened parts of the economy, and is now allowing retailers to serve customers in-store as many had been doing successfully before the shutdown. Businesses have new guidelines and protocols they must adhere to and enforce.
Malisa Morris, co-owner of Jeweled Hair Lounge and Beauty Spa in New Britain, shared how her business took careful measures to ensure the safety of visitors.
“As you can see we have our sanitizing station at the front, we put our aisle markers down, we put a shield up to keep our cashier safe, posted signs notifying customers they cannot come in without a mask and we’re just taking all the necessary precautions required,” Morris said. “We’ve had customers come in and they were fine, they had their masks on. One didn’t have a mask and we had some at the door so she took one to come in.”
New Britain restaurant owners have been working with the city to help smooth the transition while staying safe. Those who opted to do a partial reopening with outdoor seating areas were cautiously excited to see new faces and old regulars patronizing their shops again.
“Things have been going well so far,” said Christina Caccioppoli, a partner of Five Churches Brewing. “We’ve had a few people drop by and everyone’s very careful with social distancing. So far so good, I think.”
Diners in Bristol and Southington took advantage of the warm, clear day to enjoy the return of outdoor dining. By 4 p.m., regulars had gathered at Groggy Frogg and Anthony Jack’s in Southington.
In Bristol, Marilyn’s Pub had set up a shaded tent with chairs in the parking lot. Customers lined up at takeout windows at Pure Foods and then enjoyed eating at chairs along the sidewalk.
Stacey Lynn Photography owner Stacey Milliken said that as a small business owner herself she wanted to support other small businesses. She was one of more than a dozen customers at Marilyn’s Pub.
“It’s my first time out in months while keeping a safe distance,” Milliken said. “I missed going out in general and I like the fact that Marilyn’s Pub uses real cheese on their cheese fries.”
Marilyn’s Pub owner Diane Baral said it was “absolutely amazing” to have outdoor dining back.
“There are a lot of regulars here,” she pointed out.
Shoppers in Bristol were excited to leave their homes for the first time for something nonessential, but many were disappointed that some retailers were not open for business.
“I’m just stir crazy,” said Bristol resident Ashley Brown, who was disappointed that TJ Maxx on Route 6 was not open. “I’ve been locked up and I was so excited, like oh my God, it’s May 20.”
Even Westfarms Mall was buzzing, with people coming from the far reaches of the state to enjoy the indoor shopping experience they’ve been missing.
Maureen Dawkins of Hartford did not know what she would encounter when she entered the mall, but she was anxious to find out.
“I missed this,” Dawkins said.
Staff Writers Catherine Shen, Justin Muszynski, Brian Johnson and Ciara Hooks contributed to this story.