Rod Larson smiled as he was wrapped in virus-resistant plastic, before the regular barber’s cape went on.
“I feel like a sausage,” the Langley City resident said.
Larson told the Langley Advance Times that his last haircut was in January, and he didn’t get another before all BC barber shops and hair salons were closed to quell the spread of COVID-19.
“I grew the beard because my hair was getting long,” he explained.
He opted to keep his beard, but went for a much shorter trim.
Owner Issa Khal was too busy with customers to offer much in the way of detail about the re-opening. But things have changed at his Ol’ Crow barbershop on McBurney Lane, and for every other personal-service business in the province.
For barbers and hair salons, it means masks, gloves, and appointment-only haircuts, with no waiting around in shops beforehand.
Langley’s businesses are slowly reopening, as restaurants, hair salons, and other commercial outlets were given the green light to open their doors by provincial health authorities starting on May 19.
Despite the fact that many businesses can re-open, not all are rushing and few expect anything like business as usual.
“It seems like everybody’s taking it differently,” said Colleen Clark, executive director of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
The scale of opening and the ability to re-open successfully depends on everything from the size of the store, to washrooms, to protective equipment like Plexiglas screens between cashiers and patrons. Then there are issues about whether staff can find childcare – school isn’t back in until June, and even that will likely be part-time for students.
At Wendel’s Bookstore and Café in Fort Langley, owner Diane Morrison said they are taking a “slower approach” to re-opening.
Wendel’s closed on March 19th for three weeks. They re-opened on April 14 with a safety work plan for employees, and takeout food orders only.
“We expanded our employees work spaces to allow for physical distancing, increased our sanitation procedures and redesigned our website with a real time ordering system which allows customers to order and pay from their smart phone and either order for now or for a later time,” Morrison said. “We eliminated in person payment and offered contactless pick up.”
The first phase of re-opening for Wendel’s on Tuesday was adding some outside tables where people could sit and eat their take-out meals.
Dine in seating will be opened sometime in the next few weeks, Morrison said, along with the bookstore, which is currently in online “click and collect” service mode.
Each region of Langley will have a different challenge in reopening.
Fort Langley has been hit hard, said Andy Schildhorn, president of the Fort Langley Community Association.
“I think our business core has really suffered, because we are that type of destination,” he said. People come from other parts of Langley or Metro Vancouver to shop and visit. The village itself has a population of just 3,500 people or so, said Schildhorn.
“It’s been a huge struggle,” he said.
At least one of the village’s antique stores boarded up its windows several weeks ago.
On Victoria Day, Schildhorn said that at 10 a.m., he went out to Glover Road and found the main road largely deserted.
Normally, the street would have been packed with people for the annual parade.
But by later in the day, there were pedestrians out and about.
“People are starting to come back,” he said.
He’s hoping the trend continues, despite physical distancing requirements.
“I’m looking forward to seeing business come back to normal, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people in the village,” Schildhorn said.
Meanwhile, many businesses remain in semi-distanced mode, as large gatherings remain prohibited in B.C.
That means that the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce ran its first “virtual” monthly dinner meeting on Tuesday, May 19.
Members who wanted to mingle could mix together in Zoom chats, then hear an update from the chamber.
Clark said to make it a “dinner” meeting, they were encouraging attendees to get take-out from a chamber member, supporting local businesses as they come back to life.