Small shop owners share what it's really like to reopen their doors

"We don’t want to sit there and incur costs if people aren’t going to come out," said one boutique owner.
Heather Marianna of Beauty Kitchen in Boulder City, Nevada, is restructuring certain parts of her business as she reopens to customers.
Heather Marianna of Beauty Kitchen in Boulder City, Nevada, is restructuring certain parts of her business as she reopens to customers.Beauty Kitchen

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alyssa Newcomb

As soon as Heather Marianna temporarily closed her skin care boutique, Beauty Kitchen, she started thinking about the adjustments she would have to make for an eventual reopening.

Her shop in Boulder City, Nevada, located just 20 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, is limiting its capacity to 50% so customers can social distance. Shoppers will be asked to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer upon entering the store. But perhaps the biggest pain point for her business is that the coronavirus pandemic has made in-store beauty testers a relic of the past.

"Having in-store product testers has always been crucial in the beauty and skin care industry. Customers want to smell, touch and try out products to gauge effectiveness before they even leave the store," Marianna told TODAY Style.

Beauty Kitchen officially reopened on May 12, three days after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak allowed retail businesses to open their doors to customers.

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"Now that we are no longer offering in-store testers, we are offsetting this challenge by providing lots of individualized product samples to take home and try in the comfort of your own home," Marianna said. "With this, customers can still try out products they are interested in while discovering some new ones that may have not even been on their radar."

Michelle Kalinyak-Adams, co-owner of Shed Boutique and Wellness in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, created an online store during the coronavirus shutdown.

"The need was brought on by COVID, not because we were ready to do it," she said. "But because we had to elevate and be better than just a brick-and-mortar."

Shed Boutique and Wellness reopened on May 12 with many of the same safety precautions other stores are following. Employees are wearing masks, while guests are encouraged to also use a face covering. There's hand sanitizer throughout the store.

If someone tries on clothes, but doesn't buy them, the item will be steam cleaned before it's returned to the sales floor.

Kalinyak-Adams said customers have been excited to visit the store, but are also being very cautious.

"Business will be a little rocky until everyone is comfortable with the new rules set in place for everyone's safety," she said.

Vivien Böhme, owner of Bohme, a boutique chain with stores in Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa and Montana, reopened her three Utah locations located in shopping malls last week.

“What happened was, we had one of our malls open and an employee went by to check it out and she saw there were lines to other retailers," she said. "We really thought about it. We wondered: If we were open, would customers come? It was a safety concern and a financial one. We don’t want to sit there and incur costs if people aren’t going to come out."

Böhme made the decision to reopen her three Utah stores. She said she is letting employees decide whether to wear a mask and won't require customers to cover their faces.

"It’s a tough situation telling adults what to do. We don’t want to offend our customers," she said.

As other store owners weigh the risks of reopening, Böhme said she hopes they make the decision to open their doors.

“I wish other retailers were opening," she said. "It would make it easier for all of us."