Stylist Betsy Laflamme’s customers are living the COVID-19 dream.
They’re getting haircuts.
She works at Aura at Sets Salon Spa at Burnaby’s Metrotown mall. Manager Pasquale Martino said customers are “thrilled and tickled pink” to be able to get their hair done. He said they’ve been inundated with customers calling for appointments at two months of lockdown.
“Staff want to get back to work,” Martino said. “Customers want to get their hair done.
But, Martino stressed, everything is being done with precautions in place. That includes physical distancing, both clients and customers wearing masks, sanitizer at the door and stylists’ stations, lots of personal protective equipment and plexiglass at the till. Stylists also take 15 minutes between clients to sanitize their equipment and clean down their workstations.
“Whatever’s necessary and available,” Martino said.
The cautious steps forward are the same throughout the mall. The huge, multi-winged mall has been a ghost town since March. On Tuesday though, it began stirring.
While not all stores or services are open, distancing and sanitizing are the name of the game.
Across the concourse from the salon, Blenz coffee shop manager Sam Khashayar says it’s a “step-by-step” process.” He too has plexiglass and distancing rules posted.
Khashayar said staff members are having their temperatures checked at the start of every shift and anyone with a cough or other possible symptoms is asked to stay at home.
He’s not putting out condiments either. Staff will put what customers want in their beverages.
“No customer touches anything,” he said. “No sugar, no lids.”
As Martino noted, the mall wasn’t bustling so distancing isn’t difficult. But, when you approach a store door, you are noticed and motioned toward the ever-present hand sanitizer.
Clothing stores have some extra precautions to take. Omnipresent in those stores are steamers.
At Plenty, a men and women’s boutique, Koby Thomson is outside the fitting rooms armed with a steamer. Each time a customer tries on a piece of clothing, it gets steamed. Adjacent fitting rooms are closed and their curtains get a once over from Thompson when they’re used as well as a cleaning.
“Anything that customers try on we steam,” said manager Jenifer Lam. “The virus dies at high temperatures.”
Lam said the so-called new normal means a change in customer service. It involves less contact, more communication to determine what people need.
Like many others, Plenty is limiting the number of customers entering at any one time.
At Sakura Media, a Japanese animé hobby shop, general manager Jonathan Kuo said he’s cut further down on the recommended number of customers allowed to enter a store his size.
With a small retail space and a limited number of staff, he said, it’s about being able to have some control so everyone is safe. And that means follow guidelines, he added.
“It will eliminate a lot of problems,”Kup said. “Hopefully, it will get back to normal.”
Kuo was ready to get back to work.
“We need the business to sustain the business,” he said.
And he said, it’s good to be back with others.
“Everybody’s kind of excited,” he said. “You’re seeing your second family again. It’s good for everybody.”
And, that’s a sentiment echoed throughout Metrotown.
“It’s nice working with your co-workers again, interacting with people,” Lam said.
Indeed, that was part of the attraction for visiting the mall Tuesday – just getting out among others.
Asked why she’d come down, Betty Goulet said she was hoping some of the restaurants would be open.
And, indeed, some were. Outlets such as A&W, Tim Hortons and Curry Express were serving lines of people – all spaced and ordering from staff behind plexiglass.
She said she feels secure about the mall’s precautions.
“People have been keeping their distance,” she added.
James Desmasdon said he was at the mall “just to get out of the house.”
“I’ve been into a couple of stores,”he said. “I haven’t touched anything or bought anything.”
“I’m basically getting some exercise,” Desmasdon said. “It feels great.”
Changes are apparent even in the washrooms. Signs denote physical distancing measures. Adjacent sinks are closed, as are toilet stalls or urinals.
Escalators have distancing signs on them and only two people are allowed in an elevator at the same time.