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‘It’s going to be a learning curve’: Lincoln County businesses prep to reopen ahead of most of state

Phase 2 Hair and Design in Davenport didn’t have customers Thursday, but its owner was preparing to welcome them early next week, when Lincoln County will move ahead of most of the state into Phase 2 of the Safe Start reopening plan. (For The Spokesman-Review / Riley Utley)
By Riley Utley For The Spokesman-Review

DAVENPORT, Wash. – Sherry Bakken was in her salon in Davenport on Thursday, cleaning, moving furniture to allow for a safe separation between future customers and otherwise preparing her business for reopening – a reopening that is coming much earlier than it is for most businesses in Washington.

Davenport is the seat of Lincoln County, which is one of eight rural counties in Washington given permission to move ahead of the rest of the state into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased Safe Start reopening plan.

Bakken’s salon – which is perfectly named for the occasion as Phase II Hair and Design – was one of many businesses up and down Davenport’s main drag on Thursday as they prepared to begin Phase 2 of reopening today.

Davenport is the seat of Lincoln County, which has had only had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths from the disease. Neither of those cases occurred in the last three weeks, and the county has fewer than 75,000 residents, qualifying the county to move to the second phase of reopening.

Hair and nail salons are among the businesses that are permitted to reopen today, as long as they follow the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

While Phase II Hair and Design won’t reopen today, the salon’s owner was in the shop getting ready for next week, with some pandemic-related changes.

“I came in and I started last week putting up the parameters of the 6 feet, and I bought some plexiglass just in case there’s some areas where I can’t make it 6 feet, so we have dividers if we need it,” said Bakken.

Bakken is most worried about treating her elderly clients, who account for a large percentage of her clientele.

“For them to get their hair washed or their toenails trimmed because they can’t physically do it themselves – that part I’m looking forward to giving back to them,” Bakken said.

She has three pages of requests for appointments as well as text and Facebook messages. Starting this weekend, she plans to start booking appointments for clients.

“The community has been very supportive, and when this all started several had purchased gift cards and product, which helped so much those first few weeks,” Bakken said. “I am so grateful to be part of this community.”

Many restaurants around Lincoln County also credit the community for helping keep them stay open while they temporarily closed or reduced their hours.

“We could have stayed open for takeout only, but we chose to close,” said Heather Slack, the owner of Post and Office, a coffee shop in Harrington. “So we closed for about six weeks, because we felt like that was the best thing we could do. We’ve been open for about two weeks now.”

She said her business has been pretty good and that foot traffic has been close to average since she started to offer to-go orders and prepare for Phase 2.

The biggest change Slack and her staff had to make was removing half their chairs and providing a sign-in sheet for people who decide to stay and eat, so contact tracing can happen if one of their customers contracts the virus.

“The bigger restaurants are being impacted in a much bigger way then we are,” Slack said. “We were happy to be able to open again and feel comfortable working again.”

The Tribune Smokehouse in Davenport is one of the area’s bigger restaurants. When the pandemic began, it had to move to strictly takeout orders.

“It was an adjustment for us as far as how to handle it,” said Pete Brickner, owner of the Tribune Smokehouse. “I mean, we’re still learning.”

Their daily revenue has gone down 50 to 60%. They think it will decline even more as May moves on. However, Brickner said the community support has been outstanding.

“There’s so many examples of the community stepping up to play,” he said. “Not only the (Davenport) community but the outlying areas as well. But locally we’ve seen more large-order takeout from small businesses supporting each other.”

They are currently working to remodel the restaurant to make it feel like a fine dining and private experience by putting partitions between the booths and to help the restaurant adhere to social distancing guidelines by having walls between customers.

The goal for Brickner is to open on Tuesday and have both dine in and take out options available.

“It’s going to be a learning curve for us,” Brickner said. “This is something that has never happened before, and it’s like anything new – you learn and you try to improve. And all in all, we need to make money to keep our doors open.”