Governor Charlie Baker plans to reopen parts of the economy, perhaps starting as early as Tuesday, but what exactly that means for businesses is so far anyone’s guess.
Some restaurateurs aren’t expecting to welcome back diners that soon, while other business owners, from merchants to dog groomers, are preparing to open that day, hoping they have guessed right about anti-virus guidelines the state may issue.
One thing is for sure, confusion reigns.
“There is nothing clear,” said Antoine Abeddy, owner of Date & Time, a watch and jewelry shop in Sudbury.
Abeddy has been tuning into Baker’s daily news conferences on TV to look for clues. The jeweler has polled his peers on what might happen. Some were prepared to open Monday when the state’s stay-at-home advisory was set to expire, others the next day. Then on Friday Baker extended the stay-at-home measure to Tuesday.
“I’m prepared to open now if they tell me to open," said Abeddy who has been stocking up on sanitizer, masks, and gloves to protect employees and customers from COVID-19. “We might open, and nobody comes in for a week. It’s going to be challenging as is. I don’t know why they are making it more challenging. I feel more like a doctor than a salesman.”
On Monday, Baker is expected to unveil details of how Massachusetts businesses will be allowed to reopen, following a two-month shutdown to contain the pandemic that resulted in nearly 29 percent of the state’s workers losing their jobs. Nearly 1.1 million people have filed for unemployment pay in Massachusetts over the past eight weeks.
Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, had hoped the Baker administration would offer some guidance or hints that the independent shops that make up the bulk of his membership would be able to open their doors next week.
“I can’t tell you how many phone calls, e-mails, and so forth I get that say, ‘Hey, do you have any insight, or do we have to wait until Monday?’” Hurst said. “I think everyone is at the end of their ropes here.”
His members, he said, are starting to get upset as they see other states open up. The administration gave mom-and-pop shops one concession last week, allowing them to bring in a limited number of employees to fulfill online and phone orders, during the shutdown.
Many merchants are eager to reopen in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. Hurst, however, is all but resigned to more delay.
“I can’t say 100 percent that they’re not going to get the green light, but I’m not hopeful,” Hurst said.
On Beacon Hill, Helen’s Leather owner Lise Weller is holding out hope that shops like hers are allowed to open in the first phase of the governor’s plan. She saw it as a good sign that Baker extended the stay-at-home advisory by only one day.
“We’ll wait until Tuesday, and cross our fingers that he lets us go on Tuesday," said Weller. "I was thinking he was going to extend it by a month, so 24 hours isn’t too bad.”
Absent state guidelines, Weller said she has been doing “common sense things,” such as getting hand sanitizer and masks ready for customers. She plans to take precautions such as a one-customer-at-a-time limit inside the small store, with seating outside where others can wait.
“We’re getting excited about it,” she added. “We’ve had people calling us nonstop.”
Lex Andre Daluz, owner of Marvelous Cuts, isn’t waiting to find out what Baker says on Monday. The second-generation barber is already taking appointments for next week.
“We’re solid booked up,” said Daluz who owns shops in Brockton and Boston. “Of course all of that is contingent on what the state addresses Monday.”
Daluz is hoping to open his Brockton shop on Thursday at half-capacity with only one barber on at a time. He developed his own reopening plan through what he calls a “thorough investigation” via social media posts of other barbers’ operations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Georgia, which have begun reopening their economies.
“We’ve gotten nothing except a blur of direction from the state, so it’s every business for themselves right now in terms of finding resources on how to reopen correctly,” he said.
When Baker does tap hair salons to reopen, Kanessa Alexander, owner of the Perfect 10 Unisex Salon in West Roxbury, said she will start accepting appointments. She and her stylists need a paycheck. However, she is not confident the arrangement will last long.
“We will move forward, but I think it will push us back,” she said, warning of spikes in deaths and cases this summer. “Even if we make it a month, we will probably get shut down again.”
Pawsh Dog Boutique in the Back Bay is taking appointments for next week, even if there’s a chance they all might be canceled.
“Let’s see here… 35, 37… 50… 61,” said co-owner Mike Maida as he counted over the phone while flipping through his calendar of dog-grooming appointments . “Yeah, it looks like we’re in the 60 to 70 range for appointments next week.”
Maida runs the boutique with his wife, Nancy, and since Baker’s stay-at-home advisory, Pawsh has remained open for retail sales since pet supplies are deemed essential. But they have had to cancel over 300 grooming appointments.
“We just have everybody waiting in the wings,” said Maida of his furloughed groomers.
The Maidas have devised a plan for operations they think will comply with federal and state social distancing regulations. All services will be by appointment only. Dogs will be dropped off within a gated area. All communication with their owners will occur by phone.
"We’re hopeful. We’re prepared. But we have to wait and see,” he said.
Business owners understand that Baker is in a tough position, trying to manage a public health crisis while figuring out how to safely restart commerce. The governor has repeatedly said public health data — including the rate of infections and hospitalizations — will drive how and when the economy reopens.
Still, business owners and leaders have grown impatient with the Baker administration, arguing the lack of advance notice makes it more difficult for them to be ready to reopen.
“Owners need to budget, schedule, and order inventory, having something to go by," said Erik Hynes, owner of the Hynes Restaurant Group, whose outlets on the South Shore include Precinct 10 in Weymouth and 42 Degrees North in Plymouth. “That is how business works. All businesses. We can’t just flip a switch and say ‘go.' ”
Dugan Arnett, Jon Chesto, and Janelle Nanos of the Globe staff contributed to this report.