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Columbiana businesses bounce back from closure

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA — Gabby Moreno is well acquainted with the ups and downs of business. Moreno had practically just opened La Patrona Mexican Restaurant in Columbiana when she had to make the difficult decision to close for the safety of her customers and staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.

La Patrona first opened its doors in November 2019, following a year of preparation and out-of-pocket expenses. Moreno admitted that opening the first time was not easy.

“You always learn best from the hard way,” she said, expressing her gratitude to the community for its continued support since reopening May 18.

“I just moved to Columbiana a few years ago, and I just love Columbiana,” Moreno said. “We’re back. We’re trying to do the best we can. We’ve seen a lot of faces.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Eddy Martin Jr. of Main Street Barbershop, who ran his shop for 31 years before retiring, stayed home for 11 years, then seized the opportunity to reopen his shop back in January.

“I didn’t have to make a living to start with. I just wanted something to do,” said Martin, who is at Main Street on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. His first day back in business was May 11.

He said the first week back saw above-average business, while the second week saw normal crowds.

“I haven’t really had a chance to get my feet on the ground,” Martin said. “I’ve got to try to build a business back up if I want to stay in business.”

Meanwhile, Kenny Platter at Design Salon saw nearly 35 new customers in addition to regular clientele the first week after reopening.

“For us, it’s been excellent. We’ve grown more, we’ve added staff. We have our hands full,” Platter said.

In order to comply with sanitation guidelines, the salon has ordered new disposable capes, disposable towels and other equipment for the safety of customers and employees. This has cost an estimated $300, and certain items are slow to ship.

“It’s just the price we pay to do business, and we will not pass that along to the people that walk through this door,” Platter said.

Snap Fitness is also welcoming back customers to use its exercise equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, although every other machine has been closed off to enable social distancing.

In Snap’s second week back in business, owner Katie Heller estimated the number of customers was averaging 70-80 per day whereas before the closure, Snap was averaging between 150-160 customers per day.

Also, the exercise machines are being sanitized about every 30 minutes instead of just once or twice a day, as was the practice previously.

“People are cleaning before they get on and after they get off. I’m going around cleaning as well,” Heller said.

Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley said most businesses in the city were sticking to state guidelines.

“We appreciate a conservative approach, and we’ve been very lucky here in Columbiana to have not had a real outbreak,” he said. “We’re very cognizant of the fact that we need to get these businesses back open and people back to work.”

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