• 63°

Businesses, customers cope with new face mask requirements

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week Executive Order 63, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus beginning Friday, May 29.

Several businesses in Downtown Farmville were using different strategies to implement this order this past weekend.

At the Penelope store on Main Street, a sign out front stated that the door would remain locked and only be opened for patrons wearing a mask.

Penelope Manager Amanda Duncan said the door-locking policy was a corporate decision that served as a way to ensure individuals weren’t coming into the store without wearing a mask. She said the policy was to protect both store workers and customers.

Duncan said the door had been locked to unmasked customers for approximately two weeks, around the time the store had reopened to the public after Northam’s temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses.

“We have some people that are understanding. We have some people that get very mad about it, but it’s one of those situations where people overall understand that this is just our job, and we’re trying to do our best to not only enforce our corporate procedures but also what’s going on for the state.”

The Outdoor Adventure Store in Farmville had found a way Saturday morning to enforce the governor’s order while still serving customers who weren’t wearing masks.

Store employee Sarah Irby said the store had tightened its restrictions on mask usage after the executive order. Although no customers were allowed in the store without a mask on, The Outdoor Adventure Store staff had placed a table outside of the business to conduct bike rentals without customers having to enter the store. The table also featured hand sanitizer for customers to use.

“People are usually pretty compliant and understanding,” Irby said of the restrictions. “There’s been a few people that are like, ‘Oh, pish posh.’”

Farmville’s streets were not quite as busy as the first weekend when restrictions were lifted, with fewer people out and about Saturday morning. The majority of individuals walking down Main Street were wearing masks, although many of them walked around with their masks pulled down to hang around their neck or to sit atop their head while not physically inside a store.

Fran and Larry Palmer, visitors from out of town, were walking down Main Street wearing their masks as they shopped.

Fran said she felt it was up to the individual to wear face coverings and that everyone’s choices regarding masks should be respected, although those who opt to go without face masks should keep their distance from others.

The Palmer’s said they had already been wearing masks when shopping in businesses before Northam’s order.

“You just want to be on the safe side,” Fran said.

“If you want to contain it (the virus) and get rid of it you’ve got to practice what the health advisers are telling you, because they know best,” Larry added.

Although the governor’s restrictions have affected all businesses, one Farmville staple that has had to make a number of adjustments is Caryn’s Bridals.

Cindy George, manager of Caryn’s Bridals, said the dress shop had been open for two weeks and operating by appointment only. While brides typically make appointments for their dress shopping anyway, George said bridal parties were restricted to only a bride and three guests, sitting apart from one another, meaning fewer friends and family are able to join the bride as she searches for a gown.

George added that Caryn’s is typically able to allow for four brides at a time in the back room, although they have restricted it to a limit of two brides, one on each side, to allow for social distancing.

George said all consultants at Caryn’s Bridals were wearing masks while working, and the store had been able to acquire extra masks in order to ask those who come in without a face covering to cover up and comply with the executive order. The dress shop was also offering hand sanitizer for guests.

“Everyone has been absolutely cooperative. They don’t even question it. There’s no rolling of the eyes or anything,” she added.

Living in the age of the coronavirus and under Northam’s new order has meant brides at Caryn’s and other shops around the commonwealth are having to try on their wedding gowns while also donning a face mask — something most women don’t picture when preparing for such a special day. George said brides have been in good spirits and adapting well to the change, although they may choose to pull the mask down for a moment while alone in the dressing room to really get the full effect and envision themselves on the big day.

She added, dresses tried on by bridesmaids and brides stay on a separate rack for sometimes several days to give customers peace of mind when trying on dresses and gowns.

“We’re doing all we can to keep the environment safe for them … Our focus is still the bride. We want her to have a fun and memorable experience in spite of these COVID-19 guidelines,” she added. “We had a bride who came in last week and she wrote a review — ‘I did not feel like a COVID-19 bride.’”

“It really wasn’t any different than what we were already doing,” store owner Caryn Kayton said in reference to the new executive order. “We want everybody to be safe. I’m not trying to boss everybody around. It’s for people’s safety.”