Thirteen people were on a waiting list Wednesday morning for haircuts at Ernie T’s Barber Shop on Scottsville Road, but those customers were not inside the shop.
Owner Ernie Thomas had set up a system that allowed patrons to be sent a text message when one of his two chairs was open, so they waited in the cars and trucks that packed his parking lot. It was Thomas’ effort to practice social distancing on the day after Gov. Andy Beshear told him and others in “public-facing” businesses that they had to close as another strategy to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Thomas, on the last day of operation for who knows how long, was trying to make the best of what could be a very bad situation for him and others in such businesses as nail salons, workout gyms and entertainment venues.
“We were 10 deep when I got here this morning,” Thomas said. “We did this (the texting system) to be as proactive as I could to minimize the number of people in here at one time. So far, it has worked great.”
While he was enjoying the bevy of business before the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to close, Thomas knew the end result was not going to be so great.
“We’re going to close until we get the go-ahead to open,” Thomas said. “We’re going to do what we have to do legally, but it’s going to be tough. There’s no unemployment for us. There’s not going to be any income.”
Thomas’ fears are shared by others, like the owner of the Majestic Nails nail salon in Bowling Green.
“It’s going to be rough,” said Mongkolphalla Plong, who opened Majestic Nails two years ago. “I know it’s needed to slow the spread of the virus, but I’d rather they limit the number of customers at one time instead of closing completely.
“We have money for a rainy day, but this is just hard. We have to keep paying rent. We can’t afford to be closed for a month or more.”
Although she said the forced closure will hurt, Anytime Fitness manager Kayce Kirkpatrick was already implementing strategies for staying in touch with her clients Wednesday as a handful of patrons used the exercise equipment at the gym on Iron Skillet Court.
Kirkpatrick has already started streaming some workouts on Facebook Live, and she said Anytime Fitness has a mobile app that clients can use to stay active.
“We’re trying to keep our members as active and engaged as possible,” Kirkpatrick said. “Some of them are off work now, and when you’re not working you tend to sit around and eat more. We’re going to try to keep them active.”
One of the clients at Anytime Fitness, Scottsville resident Lenny Ausbrooks, said he understands the reason for closing such businesses but is still concerned about how it will change his fitness habits.
“It’ll change my routine,” said Ausbrooks, 56. “This is how I start my day. I can still walk and do push-ups and sit-ups at home, but this (Anytime Fitness) is my daily routine.”
Kirkpatrick said she will spend her “down time” improving Anytime Fitness for her customers, mostly doing some deep cleaning, but she’s hoping this is more of a brief hiatus than a long-term shutdown.
“We’re saying now that we’re closed for two weeks,” she said, “unless they tell us we need to stay closed longer. If it lasts a month or more, we’ll have people wanting to freeze their accounts, and that can hurt. We’re a franchise, but we’re also a small business.”
Like Kirkpatrick, barber Thomas said the uncertainty is the hardest aspect of the forced closure.
“Nobody knows how long this is going to last,” he said.