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Cincinnati's small businesses prepare to reopen with masks, sanitizer and social distancing

Posted at 4:47 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 21:04:16-04

CINCINNATI — Retail businesses across Ohio will be allowed to reopen starting May 12, provided they observe what Gov. Mike DeWine has described as strict health and safety guidelines. Owners of Cincinnati-area shops said Wednesday they were excited to resurrect their companies while keeping employees safe.

“It couldn’t be more important” to get back to work, said Carolyn Deininger, who owns the Over-the-Rhine boutique Mica 12/v. “I know everybody is hanging on by a thread here.”

Mica ramped up online sales and curbside pickup during its month-long closure, and Deininger expects that to continue as customers slowly return to a semblance of everyday life. However, in-store sales remain vital to Mica’s business.

To ensure they can happen safely, Deininger has rearranged the interior of her store to provide customers with enough space to social distance. No one will be able to enter without a mask; as they step inside, they’ll be expected to sanitize their hands.

In Hyde Park, children’s clothing store Castle House has put up signs reminding customers to keep their distance. Only a limited number will be allowed inside at any given time, and — like customers at Mica — they must all wear masks.

“We are trying to take every absolutely necessary precaution that we have to to make sure that our customers feel safe, but (also) that all of my employees feel safe as well in the workplace,” said owner Jenn Bastos.

Larger businesses are getting in on the act, too. A Monday afternoon post on the official Tri-County Mall’s Facebook page announced the shopping center plans to partially reopen on May 12.

Customers who enter the mall are asked to wear masks, keep their distance from one another and stay home if they feel sick. Masks are required for employees, as is a daily COVID-19 symptom screening. No business inside the mall can have more than 50% of its maximum occupancy inside at once.

The restaurants inside will remain carryout-only; personal grooming and beauty businesses will remain closed.

Big or small, Deininger said, businesses just hope to be prepared for the next phase.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “We are cautiously optimistic about opening. We’re excited to see everybody again, but it’s also really scary.”