Customers flooded some of the first businesses to open their doors to the public in over a month Friday as Mainers rushed to get a haircut, groom their pet or buy a new car.

Mike DiTomasso cuts a customer’s hair at the Main Street Barber Shop in Kennebunk on Friday. Adhering to the state’s guidelines for reopening, the shop took customers only by appointment, the barbers and customers wore masks, and the staff used disposable plastic aprons to cover customers and sanitized the chairs between customers. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Friday was the first day that select public-facing businesses were allowed to reopen under Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to restart the state’s economy. Mills had ordered all nonessential businesses to close to customers as of March 25, and most remain closed.

Some non-critical health care providers, barber shops, hair salons, pet groomers, golf courses, auto dealerships and car washes got the green light to reopen, provided they followed social distancing and sanitation protocols set by the administration.

Momentum Barbershop in Portland’s Old Port was fully booked four days out, said owner Jason Dodge. His shop and others require advance appointments, thoroughly sanitize after each customer and allow no one to wait inside before their haircut.

Customers started making appointments right after Mills announced Tuesday that she was easing restrictions and allowing a select few types of businesses to reopen, Dodge said.

“Any holes in our schedule filled immediately; today the phones have been nonstop,” he said.

Customers are “very shaggy, very grateful,” Dodge added. “Everyone here is very happy to get a haircut and see downtown with some bodies moving around and lights on in businesses.”

Dani Nisbet spent three days deep-cleaning Belissimo salon in South Portland and arranged shower curtains around stylists’ stations in an attempt to keep people safe. Plenty of clients booked appointments, but some are waiting to see how everything works out, she said.

She’s glad to be open, but restrictions make the job much more complicated, Nisbet said. The salon isn’t blow drying hair right now, for example.

John Colucci gets his hair cut by Amy Limanni, manager of Brazier’s Barber Shop in Westbrook on Friday morning. Limanni, who was working alone, disinfected the seat and cleaned the area between customers. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Should anything happen, we don’t want to blow dry anything around,” Nisbet said.”We are taking precautions over and above so we can feel this out for ourselves.”

Main Street Barber Shop in Kennebunk was not allowing walk-in customers but was completely booked with back-to-back appointments all day Friday. A few people waited outside in the rain to get into Brazier’s Barber Shop in Westbrook. Other businesses posted online to say they planned to reopen soon, but first needed to stock up on protective equipment and cleaning products to meet the state’s rules.

Maine Soggy Dog in Falmouth scheduled 139 appointments in less than two days after Gov. Janet Mills included pet grooming services in the first wave of businesses allowed to reopen in her phased plan to restart the Maine economy.

Owner Matthew Camp said his company is fully booked until May 17 and is still scheduling appointments.

“We’re over the moon to come back – especially the groomers were so excited to get back to this,” he said.

Soggy Dog allows owners to bring their pets outside the business, then employees take them inside with a sanitized lead and collar. Camp said his groomers call customers a half hour before pickup and bring the groomed dogs back out to the customers’ cars. Other groomers are following similar procedures.

Yogi Bear, a full-coat Havanese, gets groomed by Jessica Gonyea at Maine Soggy Dog in Falmouth on Friday. Gonyea said the shop received 127 appointment reservations in the first 24 hours after Gov. Janet Mills announced the reopening plan earlier in the week. The business used a new expansion space for the first time Friday, which allowed more room for grooming. “It is actually kind of convenient, with social distancing”, Gonyea said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Some groomers reported scheduling new appointments months out as dog owners rushed to give their pets an overdue pampering. Some dog breeds, including popular “doodle” mixes, have to get a haircut every four to six weeks.

Camp said he received hundreds of photos from pet owners who tried to trim their own dogs at home – he gave a free grooming to the worst example.

“People were sending us pictures left and right of dogs that looked ridiculous,” he said.

Joy Tremont, co-owner of You Dirty Dog in South Portland, said she and her business partner had been receiving calls nonstop for two days before the pet grooming business reopened Friday and are fully booked until May 17.

Customers will have to wait at least a couple of weeks to have their appointment, “particularly if you have a gigantic, 110-pound dog.”

She said the business was able to “push off everything but the rent” in order to reopen and hopefully remain viable. As of Friday, the owners had received no government aid through disaster loan programs or unemployment benefits.

Nick Dyer watches his shot off the tee on the first hole at Biddeford-Saco Country Club on Friday. Golf clubs opened in the first stage of reopening the state’s economy. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“Right now, the landlord has to wait until we have enough revenue to pay them for May,” Tremont said.

Some automobile dealerships also reported encouraging business Friday, but said procedures they adopted to sell cars remotely would likely remain an essential part of their sales model moving forward.

Adam Lee, chairman of the board of Lee Auto Malls, said the showroom of Lee Toyota in Topsham was full of customers and salespeople on Friday, all wearing masks and gloves and maintaining social distancing.

With a heavy downpour, it wasn’t a great day to sell cars even in normal times, but Lee said business was better than he expected. He predicts stronger sales when the weather improves and people take advantage of auto manufacturers’ deals on new cars and falling used car prices.

“We’re expecting the few next weeks to be busy in any kind of circumstances,” he said.

Yankee Ford in South Portland had just one customer come into its newly reopened showroom, but the auto dealership was working out a deal on a new car Friday morning, owner Bob Esposito said.

Matt Ivy, center, speaks with customers as Jay Mazur, far right, talks on the phone at the Yankee Ford showroom in South Portland on Friday. Bob Esposito, the dealership’s owner, said sales were down just 12 percent in April, far less than predicted. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Having the dealership’s showroom open is a nice touch, but Esposito said his company has successfully transitioned to online business. Sales were down just 12 percent in April, far less than predicted, he said. He expects to continue serving customers that way for the foreseeable future.

“Some businesses, especially mine, will come away learning a lot from this,” Esposito said. “We can do a lot of things without having a customer here.”

At least one dealership decided to play it safe for now. Nick Injac, owner of Riverside Auto Sales and Service in Portland, said he planned to wait to see if the coronavirus pandemic improves in Maine before opening his showroom.

“We just don’t want to get exposed to anything, prematurely let people in, that kind of stuff,” he said. “We will reconsider in a week or two when we see how everything is going. If everything goes smoothly then, if there is no jump in the numbers, we might reopen.”

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