RICHMOND, Va. -- On a sunny Memorial Day, crowds reminiscent of Summer 2019 hit Carytown, three full days after Virginia lifted most COVID-19 social distancing and capacity limits on businesses.
Small businesses across the region are hopeful the moment marks the beginning of a major bounce back for the retail and hospitality industry, after more than a year of downturn and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Tracey Adler, who owns a healthcare business in Richmond, brought her daughter and her boyfriend who are visiting from out of state, to Carytown.
“It’s the place you come when people come to visit,” Adler said.
The past year of keeping her own business afloat and employees paid has been hard enough, so Adler knows the challenges shops and restaurants have faced have been immense. She was sad to see some spots closed on a busy holiday.
“It’s really kind of sad to see some of the places that I see have gone out of business, whether it was from COVID, which may be. But yeah, Carytown is a great place there are so many great places in Richmond.”
Virginia rescinded all capacity and social distancing guidelines on Friday and had previously ended masking requirements for vaccinated Virginians. Unvaccinated Virginians are asked to wear a facial covering, but businesses have no way of identifying who has actually gotten a shot.
One Carytown worker told CBS 6 adjusting to the change in policy and customers’ reactions to them have been difficult so far.
Some stores are choosing to keep their COVID-19 policies in place for now.
“Even some of these stores we went in that said you don’t have to wear a mask, I still wear a mask because I am vaccinated but I don’t know about everybody else,” Adler said.
Edgar Jerone Melton is a partner with Bands and Batteries INTL. The store was in Chesterfield Town Center for 25 years, but Melton said he moved to Carytown a few weeks ago.
The timing of lifting restrictions could not have been better for their move, he said.
“Just wanted to be part of Carytown and see how it goes and add some new color to it,” he said. “Since they’ve been lifted, we have seen a lot more people out and getting socialized.”
Fewer than half of businesses surveyed by the business group NFIB in May thought economic conditions would return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and only 15% reported business conditions were back to normal.
Small businesses like Jerone Melton’s hoping pent-up demand will aid the economic recovery, even if the timeline is not a quick one.
“They’ve been staying in the house for so long, just to see somebody greet them and say hello. I don’t know what it does for them, but I know what it does for me, just brightens my day up!” Jerone Melton said.