Downtown Hound employees have developed a new practice in how to transfer dogs into the business by minimizing contact.
Shiawassee County leaders from Owosso Main Street/DDA, the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Shiawassee County Health Department have recently been working toward the creation of the Shiawassee Safe initiative, which will be finalized over the next couple of weeks. According to Josh Adams, director of Owosso Main Street/DDA, the collaboration represents a way to conscientiously celebrate how local businesses are adjusting to the COVID-19 crisis in meeting the needs of both the consumer and employees. Consumer/employee comfort and confidence is, of course, central to this initiative.
“We understand there are many people who will still be hesitant and it is not our job to tell people what to do or how to feel. It is our job to provide options to make them feel comfortable once again,” shared Adams. He had recently initiated a Facebook survey on reopening that garnered over 1,600 responses with several data points suggesting consumers were relatively positive about local businesses reopening after quarantine. The survey Adams created has since been modified and utilized in other municipalities around the state and even the National Main Street program used the survey as a template.
“Most local businesses want to open in the safest way they can,” Adams said. “We don’t need to wrap everyone in bubble wrap, but we do need to listen to those that are most worried. It’s not our job to be judgmental of those that are most fearful.”
Due to the recent focus on Karl Manke’s Barber & Beauty Shop in Owosso, it was decided to reach out to other salons and barbershops in the area to see what their thoughts and plans might entail. Several responded.
Gloria Soukup is the longtime owner of Looks Unlimited on N. Washington Street in Owosso. Soukup has owned her downtown business for 24 years and has been a professional nail technician for 30 years. Her daughter and a number of employees still work in the business alongside her, so she is quite invested in the Owosso business community.
“I can’t wait to reopen,” Soukup said. “I miss my clients. They’re my friends and we have got so much support from the people that have come here for years.” Soukup explained that she has already had sneeze guards put in place for the nail tables. “Because we’ve always offered tanning, hair and nails, we’ve always been extra careful and are well-known to be very clean,” she explained. “Our disinfectant is already hospital grade. The hair stations are six feet apart.” She shared that she knows masks might have to be used even once the state executive orders are lifted. “We will follow state guidelines. We’ve been repainting the tanning rooms and deep cleaning behind the tanning units. It’s given us something to do, but I don’t want it to go on much longer.”
Adam Voss is the owner of The Lounge Barber Shop and Shave Parlor on W. Main Street in Owosso. The Lounge regularly offers shaves, beard trims and haircuts to a generally masculine clientele. “It’s hard,” he shared. “We are waiting to see what the guidelines will be because I want to follow the guidelines.” His current plan is to see what the rules for reopening will entail once the state orders are lifted before finalizing any long-term plans. “We might not do walk-ins. We might strictly do only appointments,” he said. “We have a ton of regulars and have had several customers reach out during this time and none of them are pressuring us to open early. They want to help and be supportive.” He expressed his gratitude to John Hankerd (Hankerd Sportswear) for the downtown T-shirt sale promotion, which he stated was very helpful. “I’m going to do my best to honor everyone. One thing I won’t do is just open the doors immediately. It’s going to be a challenge, but we can figure it out. I’m tremendously grateful for the support I have received from my longtime customers.”
Casey Voss is the owner and founder of City Suites Salon & Spas on N. M-52 in Owosso. Casey is also married to Adam Voss – so the couple is very invested in the local business community.
City Suites operates with a bit of a twist because the stylists actually purchase their own space within the salon/spa location. There are 18 stylists working within City Suites and each stylist functions as a separate owner.
“I’ve been very encouraged that each girl wants to follow the guidelines for reopening,” Casey shared. “We know we will be doing different things to get ready as we go back to work. We appreciate our clients, but we want to keep everyone safe.” She explained that the stylists plan to continue wearing masks and will likely ask clients to wear masks. “What we don’t fully know about, we will listen to the guidelines, keeping an open mind. My husband and I, everyone, we want to do what’s right. Our deepest resource on this planet is each other and we can weather any storm if we work together. We need to stay optimistic and hopeful,” she stated.
Shelly Ochodnicky is the owner of Downtown Hound on Corunna Avenue. Unlike the other businesses discussed, Downtown Hound is a professional pet grooming service. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, grooming services, salons and barbershops have often been lumped together, although they actually function a bit differently – the obvious difference being that pet groomers don’t necessarily have to deal directly with the public.
Like the other business owners, Ochodnicky is extremely pleased with the community support she and her two employees have received during quarantine. “We’ve been researching how to proceed,” she shared, explaining that the business already has masks, hand sanitizers and wipes on hand. “We are really ready and prepared. We get messages just about every day that the dogs need us. They need our grooming for health reasons.” Some dogs and cats are susceptible to health issues if they are not groomed regularly.
Ochodnicky outlined her new business plan where the groomers will be working six feet apart. Clients will text upon arrival and meet a groomer at the door to handoff the pet, minus any physical human contact. A separate lead kept in the business will be used. The owner will have to take the pet’s lead and collar with them when they leave. Payment will mostly be credit/debit card over the phone.