First wave of Fairbanks businesses open, residents eager to use services

A customer sitting down at Airport Way Family Restaurant on Friday, the first day businesses...
A customer sitting down at Airport Way Family Restaurant on Friday, the first day businesses were allowed to reopen in Fairbanks. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)(KTVF)
Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 3:15 PM AKDT
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On Friday, the first wave of businesses in Fairbanks opened the doors to customers again. Although many businesses have continued to provide delivery and take out service, they can now allow customers into their stores, while following state guidelines.

The Airport Way Family Restaurant was open at 7 a.m. for customers and had a regular customer waiting at the door to come in for breakfast. Anna Maria Bellamy, shift manager at Airport Way Family Restaurant says as of around 11 a.m. they had about six tables, and they are only accepting parties of one or two.

She says that so far they had all been regular customers who were very happy to be able to dine in again. They have printed out sheets of all the guidelines and precautions employees have to follow, and they have each employee sign it saying they understand. Customers also have to enter through a single entrance in the front, and leave through an entrance in the back.

One customer, Jim Coghill, says he normally goes out to eat for breakfast almost every morning. He says he is a regular at this restaurant as well as others, “I know all the restaurants and all the waitresses,” said Coghill.

Coghill says he is very happy the restaurants are open again. “A lot of people are needing to get out and about and it’s the community doing typical everyday things, that’s what we need to do,” said Coghill. He says he understands it will be different as businesses start to reopen.

“I’m here to support the restaurants that I’ve been supporting all these years, and I know they need to get back to work. Some normalcy is what we’re looking for, and that’s what I’m looking for,” said Coghill.

Bellamy says they are sanitizing everything, wearing a specific type of cloth mask at all times, and changing gloves out after they touch anything.

Bellamy says they are very happy to be open again. “It was very hard on our family for all of this to happen because we all are employed here and we all work together, but this is a very like positive thing. It’s never been like this and we’ve been open for almost 22 years,” said Bellamy.

Alla Gutsul, owner of Soba, says customers are not used to having to make reservations. They are also encouraging customers to enter through the front and exit through the back of the restaurant. Gatsul says they are spacing out the tables they seat, wearing masks and gloves and sanitizing.

She says when they get a reservation; they decide where they will seat them to give space between tables.

“We are happy that we are able to offer this little comfort for our local people, the Fairbanks people,” said Gatsul.

Along with restaurants, other stores opened their doors as well. Hana Johnson, a customer service specialist at Frank’s Menswear says they have been doing appointments two days a week but now they are open to their regular hours.

“Now that there hasn’t been any reported cases in a couple weeks, and the mandate went out that businesses are allowed to open, still maintaining the CDC regulations for sanitation and still maintaining that six foot distance,” said Johnson.

She says they did change their hours slightly as they are not sure exactly how busy they will be as they open back up.

“People who are doing weddings through us, they might just push them back or redo them to next year or it might be kind of slow. You never know when things like this happen, so we’re just changing that for now and then once things get back to regular and this whole pandemic, as everyone’s calling it, gets over then yeah we’ll be back to normal,” said Johnson.

She says not much has changed in the store other than sanitizing things after people touch it, not taking people’s credit cards, maintaining the six feet rule, and limiting the number of customers in the store to five or six people.

“If it were to get busy we would have to have someone at the door managing how many people come in here, because it is a small space, we can’t have like ten people in here, it would be impossible to keep that six feet rule,” said Johnson.

Bishop’s Jewelry Gallery opened today as well, requiring all customers to wear masks. Hayly Johnson, a salesperson at Bishop’s Jewelry Gallery says they are very excited to be open again. She says it is very different with the guidelines.

“We are following a lot of new procedures and rules, like we are wearing masks daily and when people bring in their jewelry, we have them put it in alcohol first, just to sterilize it before we touch it, and then it will be sterilized, all of our jewelry gets cleaned after being repaired, custom jewelry work. That way our customers are having their jewelry cleaned when it gets returned to them,” said Johnson.

One couple, Alice Camacho and William Hawkins, went to Bishop’s Jewelry Gallery on Friday to pick out their wedding bands for their wedding, which was also on Friday.

“I’m pretty pregnant, so we’re trying to get married before he comes, and William just came back from Iraq, so it seemed like a good time,” said Camacho. Hawkins is stationed at Fort Wainwright and returned about two weeks ago from a deployment in Iraq.

Camacho says she heard online that some businesses were opening on Friday so she was hoping a business would have rings for them. She says they got their marriage license through the mail and they are going to have a pastor marry them in their home.

“I’m just looking for a small ring, because I’m a CNA, so I can wear it with my gloves, just always have it on me,” said Camacho.

Many businesses say they are not opening today, as they want to wait to reopen until they are prepared with the new guidelines.

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