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When Bryan Kirkland started taking appointments for haircuts Monday, the schedule filled up fast. 

Kirkland, co-owner of The Barbershop and Shaving Parlor, had 67 messages from people who couldn't get a spot on his list.

"They were so ready to come back to get their hair cut," Kirkland said. 

Like many other businesses, Kirkland's shop had been closed for the past month after Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

Monday was the first day businesses like barbershops, salons and clothing stores could reopen with some restrictions such as reducing their capacity and practicing social distancing.

Some businesses around the state have elected to stay closed, worried it's still too early. Others needed to get back to make money. 

Kirkland said being closed meant he and the barbers who work in his shop went without a paycheck, leaving some of his barbers in “dire straits.”

“If we would have stayed closed for much longer, we would have had to close our doors completely,” Kirkland said.

Barbers and cosmetologists mostly work as independent contractors, meaning they rent space at shops and didn't qualify for unemployment benefits until recently. Some said they still haven’t received a check from the Department of Labor and Industry.

Korey Spencer, owner of Hera Salon, said employees at her salon hadn’t worked since March 22 and hadn’t received unemployment checks.

The salon had a meeting after the the plan to reopen the state was announced and decided the business needed to open because other salons were opening and they didn’t want to lose customers.

“It really boiled down to we have to pay our bills,” Spencer said.

Hera Salon and The Barbershop and Shaving Parlor are doing their best to follow guidelines like giving each customer a new cape, requiring workers to wear face masks and checking their temperatures before they cut hair. The salon and barbershop each worked out rotating shifts to limit the number of people at the businesses.

A handful of stores at the Gallatin Valley Mall reopened Monday. Smaller businesses — including in the food court and arcade — opened with strict sanitizing guidelines. However, national chains like JC Penney, Eddie Bauer and Macy’s remained closed.

Signs at the mall's entrance reminded people to continue practicing social distancing while inside. A couple of mannequins in the middle of the mall wore face masks. Food court tables were removed.

Deb Jacupke, general manger for the mall, said some mall activities are still on hold, like walking groups. 

Security is making sure the mall isn’t overcrowded, Jacupke said. Employees there are working to keep surfaces clean and hand-sanitizer dispensers are located throughout the building.

Jacupke said tables would be added outside of Joann’s Fabric Store to give people more seating near the food court when that's allowed.

“It’s just an interesting dynamic because malls were designed to be gathering places, and we just got to figure out how we gather in this environment,” she said.

In Three Forks, Three Forks Floral opened its shop after about a month of offering only delivery and curbside pickup. The business is limiting capacity to two customers at a time and cleaning surfaces thoroughly and frequently.

For owner Mo Denny, reopening was necessary to survive. 

“It was a difficult decision to open our doors today, but I have to pay the rent,” she said. 

In Big Sky, Grizzly Outfitters reopened Monday, bringing back full-time employees. Although tourist traffic has mostly disappeared, the store is still looking to do its spring business selling, renting and repairing bikes, said sales associate Melina Glock. Employees and customers will have to stay 6 feet apart from each other and personal protective equipment such as gloves is encouraged.

Business is also slowly returning to normal in Ennis.

Jamie Lovett reopened the Ennis Trading Post Monday with some changes to store hours, additional cleaning protocols and a limit of six people in the clothing store at a time.

“As I was driving down Main Street this morning, I saw more cars parked, other businesses opening up and more people walking around,” Lovett said.

She’s not sure how many people will be up for shopping and worries about her other business, Madison Square Athletic Club, which must remain closed for now. 

“Every dollar is worth it to me at this point,” Lovett said. “We’re in a tourist town, but the business we get in the winter pays the rent.”

Although Montana is seeing fewer new cases than it was just a few weeks ago — there was one new case Monday — not all retail businesses are ready to open.

Andrea Peacock, owner of Elk River Books in Livingston, said she’s going to continue curbside pickup and delivery service for now and will reassess in a week or so. 

She acknowledged that Park County has had a small number of COVID-19 cases — a total of seven as of Monday — but said she still has concerns.

“There still are new cases in Montana, so we’d like more time to see if the curve really has flattened or if the reopening leads to more cases,” she said.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.