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Economy

Joyful, Cautious Residents Venture Out As Some Metro Kansas City Businesses Reopen

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Laura Ziegler
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KCUR 89.3
Marylou Lyman (center) with her daughter Leslie Smith (left) and manager Jennifer Thomas are not worried their first day reopening has been slow. Behind them are menus for the very popular carry out items they’ve been offering during the stay-at-home restrictions.

Streets remain relatively quiet and patronage is slow as parts of Cass, Clay and Platte counties allow businesses to reopen Monday.

Perkins Restaurant & Bakery in Gladstone, Missouri, opened at 6 a.m. Monday morning for the first time in almost two months. The first customer didn’t arrive until an hour later.

Marylou Lyman, who has worked there for 40 years, said even the regulars have been taking advantage of the robust carry-out business, and may not know they’ve now reopened for dine-in service.

"We’re hoping that it’s going to start picking up once the word gets out,” she said. “But we can only do about half of our dining room because we have the six foot social distancing.”

Only three metro area counties, Clay, Platte, and Cass, reopened for business Monday, even as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s recovery plan gave a green light to all businesses and social gatherings statewide.

Kansas City, Missouri's stay-at-home order lasts until May 15 (with some businesses allowed to resume in-person operations, while following strict social distancing guidelines, on May 6), so the parts of Clay and Platte counties that are within Kansas City’s boundaries will adhere to the city order and also delay opening until that date. (Jackson County's stay-at-home order lasts until May 11.)

KCUR found a mixed bag of reactions Monday morning as we polled businesses, consumers and public offices in areas opening for the first time in almost two months.

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Carlos Moreno
Kevin Stewart gets a much-needed trim from Nicole Merz in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

Raymore resident Kevin Stewart said he hasn’t been in a barber’s chair since the middle of February. He took advantage of the reopening to get one of the first appointments at Shear Perfection in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, where Nicole Merz opened her shop for the first time since March 24.

She said she was already completely booked until Memorial Day.

Lee’s Summit resident Linda Hamilton got a cut and color, “the works.”

“I told Nicole I would do anything," Hamilton said. “I would sit in a parking lot, a drive-through to get my hair cut.”

Still, Merz said it’s daunting: limiting contact with clients and sterilizing protocols double the amount of work.

Down the road from Shear Perfection in Pleasant Hill, the Flowers and Friends florist had a sign on its door saying it would be closed until May 15. But a few doors down, personal trainer Carri Basile was conducting her first in-person workout since March 24 at her BFit4U studio.

Basile had been doing online personal training but was in the gym with a client early Monday.

“It feels good, but I was a little apprehensive,” Basile said. “It’s good to get back to some kind of normal.”

In North Kansas City, barber Anthony Molle was washing the windows of his shop on Howell Street.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Molle. “I’ve been closed since March 21 and the bills keep coming in here and at home.”

Molle will wear a mask as he welcomes customers back on Tuesday but wasn’t sure how many know he’ll be open. He won’t require customers to wear one.

“I understand we have to protect people but they’re taking people’s rights and livelihood away,” Molle said. “They’ve overstepped their boundaries, really.”

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Laura Ziegler
Frank, Amanda and their 11-month-old Max Parker live right off the historic Liberty square and walk here regularly to patronize the local Hammerand Coffee Shop and local restaurants.

Liberty residents Frank and Amanda Parker said they had been lucky; Frank works in IT and Amanda is a teacher, so they’d been working remotely pretty easily. Plus it’s given them precious time to be with their baby, who they’ve seen take first steps and grow in other ways during their two months at home.

“We’ll never spend this kind of time with another kid,” Amanda Parker said.

But they have the luxury of working from home.

“Financially we have not been impacted … we can afford to support a slow reopening, “ said Frank.

“It’s worrisome, of course, you don’t want to open everything off the bat and have a spike [in COVID-19 cases],” said Amanda. “But we are not business owners and I understand how some of the small businesses are struggling. I don’t know, it’s hard to say what’s more important.”

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Laura Ziegler
Lucas Bell says Hammerhand Coffee on the historic Liberty Square will not reopen immediately, given the restrictions on businesses. Business has been good at the carryout window and Liberty has supported them through the stay-at-home orders.

Clay County is keeping eateries and coffee shops at 25% of capacity, which made reopening for Hammerhand Coffee on Liberty square not really worthwhile.

“We have four employees so if we reopen we’ll have like six people in here,” said Lucas Bell, who was serving coffee from the make-shift takeout service at the front door. He said most of their products — coffee, pastry, quiche, etc., — can be sold at the window.

As a socially distanced line of several customers waited outside for their orders, Bell said Liberty residents “wrapped them in their arms” and have been super loyal.

Bell wasn’t sure when they will let customers inside, adding they will let people know via social media.

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Carlos Moreno
Gladstone resident Michael Coleman waits on a school bus for his turn to take the commercial driver's license test so he can drive for the North Kansas City school district.

At the Lee’s Summit Driver Examination Office, young and not-so-young wanna-be drivers were seeking their commercial licenses. License seekers have been able to take written tests, but offices have been closed for driving tests with few exceptions since March 24.

“Now everybody is allowed to start today,” said Bill Lowe of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Gladstone resident Michael Coleman waited to take his skills test for driving a school bus for the North Kansas City school district.

Coleman said he’s ready to complete his training and get on with life.

“It’s making things normal again,” said Coleman.

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