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Business was brisk for some, slow for others, as shops, retailers, reopened doors Monday

Workers direct cars at the Allston Car Wash as businesses open back up during the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.
Workers direct cars at the Allston Car Wash as businesses open back up during the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Across Massachusetts, shops and retailers welcomed customers back for the first time Monday since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close more than two months ago. But it was far from business as usual.

Barber shops around the state were jammed. Retailers, though, reported a slower start, in some cases frustrated about curbside pickup requirements as part of Governor Charlie Baker’s phased-in reopening plan for some of them.

Months after the state put the brakes to the economy, some retailers reported few customers. Steven Glickman, owner of Siesta Sleepworks, a 67-year-old family business in Acton, said his business was open but had received only one order as of 1 p.m. — and it wasn’t for curbside pickup.

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"They needed it delivered, so curbside was meaningless,” he said. “We need to be open. Our delivery guys want to work. We want to work.”

Amid the effort to reboot the state’s economy, COVID-19 remains a public health threat. The state said it has killed 6,416 people in Massachusetts, including 44 reported Monday, since mid-March, while the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 rose to 93,271, with 596 newly reported cases.

As the pandemic broke out, Baker ordered “nonessential” businesses to close in March, exempting such places as supermarkets, as well as home improvement stores and home appliance sellers.

On Monday, as part of the first phase of Baker’s reopening plan, retailers could reopen with curbside pickup. Barbers and car washes could also reopen, so long as they followed state guidance on helping to prevent the spread of the disease, including practicing social distancing.

The state’s recreational marijuana shops reopened as well on Monday, and like other retailers, they also have to conduct business outside.

Going back to work is critical for workers of those businesses said Johan Giraldo, 36, a supervisor at the Allston Car Wash.

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“It’s been frustrating,” Giraldo said of the state’s order for nonessential businesses to close. “About four to six weeks at home. We need to feed our families, pay our mortgages … it’s been a struggle."

Glickman, of Siesta Sleepworks in Acton, said he was frustrated that Baker wouldn’t let shops reopen, while allowing home appliance retailers to continue throughout the pandemic as essential services.

“I’ve paid my bills on time all those years, and now we’re running a little bit late because we’ve been closed for two months,” he said. “Heartbreaking.”

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said he wasn’t surprised to hear Monday had been a slow day for retailers.

“It was bound to be slow if you can’t go in. The reality is, curbside is another way of delivery ... it isn’t the same thing as being open,” Hurst said Monday afternoon. “There’s no impulse buying.”

He argues that retailers clothing and furniture stores should have the ability to allow customers inside their stores while practicing social distancing. He pointed to similar allowances for the barber shops and hair salons and houses of worship.

“We’re just confused by why Massachusetts did not go the same path that other states did,” Hurst said.

James Rooney, the chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said he expects the week to be slow, especially in Boston. That’s due to the Memorial Day holiday, as well as the limits imposed on phase one reopenings, he said in an e-mail.

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In order to relaunch the economy, Rooney said Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh should continue being guided by “the data and the science” and what the impact of activity was in other states that reopened before Massachusetts.

In a statement Monday, Walsh said the city is supporting businesses as it begins a phased reopening. Under the plan, the city is due to open office space starting June 1.

"The City of Boston is developing creative solutions and resources to assist businesses as they reopen through different phases to help ensure safe social distancing and provide business owners with the information needed to acquire personal protective equipment,” Walsh said.

Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, said in a statement Monday that "the administration appreciates the cooperation of our business community to abide by public health directives as we proceed through a four-phase reopening plan designed to prevent the resurgence of COVID-19.”

Across the state, outdoor spots including beaches, drive-ins, and some athletic facilities were also allowed to reopen Monday, with precautions.

At the Mendon Twin Drive-In, customers lined up late Sunday night for midnight showings of “Jurassic Park” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show," according to the drive-in’s Facebook page.

In Gloucester, beach parking lots reopened this weekend for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Police Chief Edward Conley said that the city had a relatively low turnout of beachgoers for a Memorial Day weekend, with most people following social distancing guidelines while relaxing in the sand.

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The Department of Conservation and Recreation said Monday that some athletic fields and courts are now open for non-contact sports such as tennis. Visitor centers and fitness areas will remain closed, as will most bathrooms, officials said. Playgrounds will remain closed until phase two of the state’s reopening plan.

For retailers, the Memorial Day reopening couldn’t come soon enough. Neda Sullivan, 41, co-owner of the Falmouth Jewelry Shop, said the store welcomed being able to offer curbside service outside their Main Street business.

Sullivan who has owned the shop for two years with her husband, Stephen, said the two-month closure of their store and their reliance solely on online business has been hard.

A large chunk of sales comes from tourists and seasonal residents with second homes on the Cape, she said. They hope that vacationers will come back this year and that the state’s first reopening phase ends soon, so they can invite customers back into the store.

“We need people in the store,” Sullivan said. “We have to make sales, and they have to come in here.”

In Boston, Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill has been maintaining an online business since the store closed, said owner Jennifer Hill. Monday was the first day it could open for curbside service.

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“In some ways it’s a typical Monday,” Hill said. ”Except we’re at the door instead of in the store.”

Tanisha Gray, a store manager, said Monday morning they already had a few sales. As a reporter approached, Gray helped a customer buy a graduation card.

“It’s allowing people to kind of get out and about," Gray said shortly afterward. “We have this threshold set up, so if you have a question, we can interact.”

Barber shops appeared to be doing perhaps the most brisk business Monday.

Outside the Barbershop Lounge on Newbury Street, a blue "X" marked the spot where customers had to wait for a trim. Owner Dan Dumenigo and four other barbers were booked solid Monday with appointments, from 11 a.m. through 6 p.m., he said.

“It’s a great turnout; we’re fully jammed up today,” Dumenigo said. It took fewer than 48 hours to fill every slot once he announced that his shop would reopen on Memorial Day.

Dumenigo said he realizes how fortunate he is that customers, old and new, are flocking to his shop.

“Hair is going to continue to grow,” he said. "People are going to continue to want to look nice, even if it’s just for Zoom meetings.

At Rocco’s Barber Shop in Scituate, barber Sal Graceffa, 37, said the shop has implemented an appointment system for the first time in 50 years. In the past, customers would walk in.

Now they can make an appointment through an app and be notified by text when they can come in, he said.

“People can walk around the harbor while they wait for their hair cuts,” Graceffa said.

Globe correspondents Abigail Feldman, Caroline Enos, and Matt Berg contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com or 617-929-1579. Follow her on Twitter @talanez. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.