The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on Annie’s Pet Salon. The stay-at-home order meant owner Shirley Rewoldt had to close her doors for 5 weeks, and now she faces long road back to financial stability. It will take the rest of the year, she thinks — maybe even longer. 

Rewoldt said her grooming salon lost a lot of money during the mandated closure; so did the eight employees who rely on their income from Annie’s to pay their bills.

When she was finally able to reopen on May 1, Rewoldt said there were more than 200 messages from clients seeking appointments, creating a major backlog she’s still trying to address.

“People were happy, but some of them not — because we’re booked out until June,” Rewoldt said. “Usually we can get people in within a week.”

Adding to the backlog, Rewoldt said, is the fact that Annie’s can only have half of its employees working at any given time. 

To accommodate governmental regulations for grooming businesses and ensure social distancing, Rewoldt said the 40-hour schedules she typically gives her employees have been cut to 20. 

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Other changes: All clients are now required to wear facial coverings; employees now meet clients in the parking lot to pick up pets when they arrive; payments are processed at the client’s vehicle; and employees deliver pets back to their owners’ vehicles after grooming.

With all the challenges her business has faced, Rewoldt’s goal for the rest of the year is simple: try to get out of the red.

“I hope it’s possible,” Rewoldt said. “Because I really don’t want to have to close down. If they do … make us close again, [shutting down] could happen. If they don’t, it will take some time, but I will get there.”

Rewoldt’s is one of countless Colorado businesses navigating a new landscape after being allowed to reopen.

The Business Journal spoke with owners about the challenges they’ve faced during the shutdown and changes in their businesses now that they’ve reopened.

BENNY BOYZ BARBER SHOP

Benjamin Gallegos, who owns Benny Boyz Barber Shop, couldn’t switch to remote work during the shutdown.

Gallegos estimates he lost $15,000-$18,000 while his small shop was closed.

When he reopened May 3, he found many of his customers had been eagerly awaiting its return. 

“They’re loyal to me and my brand, so last week was actually one of the better weeks I’ve ever had,” Gallegos said. “It was really good.”

Now customers are on a waiting list that runs a week-and-a-half to two weeks for a cut, where previously they could make appointments with just a day’s notice.

Because people have gone so long without haircuts, Gallegos said he mostly has to start from scratch.

“I feel like I’ve been having to reinvent the wheel a little bit,” he said, “because usually when someone comes in regularly, like every week or once every three weeks, I can follow the mold of their last haircut.

“But now that they’ve been letting their hair grow out, it’s like I have to start all over again. So haircuts are definitely taking a bit longer.”

By necessity, the shop operates very differently since reopening. 

Barbers can no longer have people waiting in the lobby area of the shop, so customers must wait for their appointments outside, or in their vehicles. 

There’s now a 10-15 minute period between each haircut, where Gallegos and the shop’s other barber sweep up and discard the previous customer’s hair, then spray all their tools with disinfectant.

Getting the tools for the job is also a problem. Gallegos said there are supply shortages since many barber supply businesses have not yet reopened.

“We’re having  to order the things we need for our equipment as far as rubber gloves disinfectants, stuff for sterilization, and things like that,” Gallegos said. “We haven’t had access to that stuff except for what we had in supply before all this started, so in getting back to work, a lot of us are just relying on the old stock that we had.”

With supplies hard to come by, Gallegos said those who have inventory are often price-gouging the barbers who are buying.

These increased costs, along with his heavy revenue losses, mean Gallegos has had to raise his prices from $20 to $27 for a haircut.

“We’re hoping it’s just a small period of time and that it will eventually go away — but in the meantime we just have to follow the strict orders from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies,” he said.

DALEZ KARDZ

Dalez Kardz has been a staple of the local trading card community for more than 30 years.

According to co-owner Dwayne Simmons, the trading card shop couldn’t offer any of its products during the stay-at-home order. Like most other businesses owners who had to close their doors, he’s lost a lot of money.

“We’re fortunate that our business will come back gradually,” Simmons said. “We’ll more than likely end up making that back over time.”

Simmons said the business was able to keep its one employee during the shutdown, and paid him for his normal hours while he was unable to work.

Many of the store’s usual customers, Simmons said, contacted him often during the closure.  

“Customers were calling all the time,” Simmons said. “We’d come in every now and then when we’d have shipments, and the phones would ring all the time with people calling to see if we were open.”

The business officially reopened May 1.

Because Dalez Kardz typically has a steady-but-light flow of foot traffic, Simmons said it hasn’t had trouble maintaining social distancing so far.

Along with limiting people in the store, increased sanitation and adhering to the state’s guidelines for retail establishments, Simmons said the biggest difference at Dalez Kardz is that they can’t host their popular gaming events. 

The store specializes in what he called the “big three” trading card games — Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: The Gathering.

“The only real difference between then and now is the organized play that we do for gaming,” Simmons said. “We would hold events on the weekends for the different games and we’re not able to do that right now. 

“So we’re just hoping we can get past this and get things back to normal pretty soon. 

“Hopefully then, we can get the players back in here playing so they can have their social interactions with different people.”

MOUNTAIN CHALET

Mountain Chalet downtown is technically an outdoor specialty retailer, but co-owner Elaine Smith said she had her husband prefer to think of it as an “outdoor toy store.”

During the safe-at-home phase, Smith said the business was able to generate minimal revenue by selling its products online, and delivering them for free to local addresses.

They reopened the first day they were allowed to do so, and are leaning heavily on a private shopping service they’re offering customers.

“Folks can either email us or call us to make appointments, and that way we’re able to space them out over the day to make sure there’s not too many folks in the shop at once,” Smith said. “We’re trying to accommodate everybody who just walks up. If somebody comes up and we have the space, and they have a mask — we’re asking everybody to wear a mask —  they can come in at that time.”

Business has been steady since the reopening.

“Everyone is planning and thinking ahead to when we know we’ll be [able to enjoy the outdoors],” Smith said.“Their love of the great outdoors will survive the pandemic.”

Mountain Chalet has about 20 employees, but can only have about half of them in the store at any given time.

As a result, Smith said employees have been splitting time in the store and working from home, where they update the company’s social media pages, write posts for its website, and do product training and education projects.

“Right now we are having fun with our social media,” Smith said. “We’ve started an online contest that folks have been enjoying — we call it Virus Nav for virus navigation. We put out a piece of a topographic map and we get people to guess the coordinates of that little section, and then we offer prizes for that.”

Running the contests, Smith said, lets them engage with customers when they can’t be in the store, and also keeps the outdoors on their minds while they’re unable to enjoy their favorite activities.

As for the future of the store, Smith faces “a lot of unknowns.”

“But we’re hoping for the best and we’re working our hardest to make sure that everybody is healthy and safe and that we’re following the guidelines that are set out at the state and local levels,” she said. 

“And that we’re doing our part as a member of the community. So those are the things that are important to us now.”

R U TATTOED

Tim Dunn owns R U Tattooed and is one of the six independent contractor tattoo artists who got back to work after the almost-40-day shutdown.

Dunn decided not to charge his fellow artists their monthly booth fees while the business was closed.

“We have six families that all rely on the shop, so going into that I couldn’t charge them,” Dunn said. “So the shop didn’t make any money that whole time.”

Because of occupancy restrictions, Dunn said since the May 1 reopening the shop’s artists have had to stagger their shifts, each taking an extra day off each week so that the other five can take clients.

The restrictions have also changed the atmosphere of the shop, which now offers services by appointment only. 

“We went from like a social club, where people would come in and hang out and stuff like that … to where now there can only be 10 people in the building at a time,” Dunn said. 

“And I understand everything that has to happen, but it sucks. It kind of takes away from what our business is, where customers are meeting new people.

“Having a lot of people in the shop, that fuels the energy. So it’s kind of taken everything down a couple of notches.”

The shop has had to implement numerous new safety policies. 

“It’s hard for us to have social distancing here, because I’m right on top of the customer,” Dunn said. “So every customer that’s here, we ask if they’ve been sick or felt any kind of symptoms in the last week, and talk to them before they even get here.

“It’s for our safety and their safety. And if anyone feels sick, feels hot or have something close to a fever, we have them stay home.”

The shop is also requiring clients to wear masks, and does temperature checks with a thermometer on clients and employees, logging them throughout each day.  

Four of the shop’s artists, including Gallegos himself, already had waiting lists for their services before the pandemic — and now face an even greater backlog. 

“Personally, I’ve been working 12 hour days … since we opened, because I was already booked until July or August … before this happened,” Dunn said. “And then all of April, I had to reschedule. So I’ve been doing double days pretty much, trying to catch up.”

While the closure has presented numerous challenges for R U Tattooed, Dunn said one positive to come from the shutdown has been the outpouring of support from loyal patrons.

“When we closed down, I had so many people hit me up asking if we needed help with anything — to help us with bills, help start petitions for us to go back to work, and stuff like that,” Dunn said. “So it’s been kind of cool to see just how many people reached out and how much people care.”

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