Jewelry and accessories shop EB and Co. started selling masks early in the pandemic and they quickly became one of its hottest items.
Now they are 50% off. And the shop, like many others in the Kansas City area as of Friday, no longer requires customers to wear them.
“I have never been so excited to ‘clearance out’ some products,” Emily Bordner, owner of the shops in Brookside and on the Country Club Plaza, said Friday. “In response to the CDC announcement yesterday we have them on sale, we removed the dividers at the cash registers and are allowing customers to try on pieces, which we did before the pandemic.”
“Seems like a good time to start encouraging that again. It feels like we are getting back to normal.”
And yet other businesses — especially some national retailers — are going a bit slower, saying they’ll keep their mask requirements as they review their policies in the next few days.
Local businesses, restaurants and other public spaces had quick decisions to make after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 “can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”
Then, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas lifted the city’s mask restrictions as of noon on Friday, the same day several cities and counties across the metro began lifting pandemic orders.
Masks are still required, per CDC guidance, in health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and on public transportation.
But it is up to businesses, organizations and places of worship to decide whether to require masks and social distancing. And though the CDC says only people who are fully vaccinated get to drop their masks, business owners say they won’t be asking anyone for proof.
Patrons of the Kansas City Public Library will be required to wear masks when locations open back up to the public next month, the library announced Friday.
“The library will continue to require masks inside all physical locations as many of our patrons — including children under 12 — cannot yet receive vaccines or are part of populations lacking equal access to vaccines,” it said in a statement.
“The library will continue to monitor vaccination rates in Kansas City, Missouri, and the wider metropolitan area to continually reevaluate our masking requirement.”
Genesis Health Clubs, which has 14 metro area gyms, was among the local businesses that dropped mask requirements on Friday. It said it will follow CDC guidance, so masks will be optional.
It could take a while for the eight Made in KC stores in the metro area to devise a new policy that follows CDC and local recommendations, said co-owner Tyler Enders.
“Part of it is we need enough time to speak to the staff, and because of the size of our workforce it takes a few days,” he said.
But he said the stores would likely stop requiring customers to wear masks within the next week and won’t ask patrons to show proof of vaccination.
Masks are still required, for now, at many national retailers, including Target, CVS, Home Depot and Walgreens, as the companies reevaluate their mask policies, McClatchy News reported.
Starbucks will keep its existing policy requiring all customers and employees to wear masks, CNN reported, as will T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores.
Trader Joe’s, however, said Friday that fully vaccinated customers are no longer required to wear masks. Soon after, both Walmart and Costco said they were dropping their mask requirements as well for vaccinated customers.
A spokeswoman for Iowa-based Hy-Vee said they will maintain their same store protocols for the time being while they evaluate their next steps.
It will require employees to wear masks and encourage customers to do so. The plexiglass barriers will remain for now, as well as social distancing measures, hand sanitizer stations and cart wipes, and online ordering for pickup or delivery services — protocols that have been in place for more than a year.
A restaurant reopens
Days before the pandemic hit, Robert Duensing got his staff together at Best Regards Bakery & Cafe in Overland Park to discuss safety procedures.
Now he feels he can safely reopen his dining room Saturday. No masks will be required for customers who are vaccinated — he’s hoping they’ll be honest about that. Customers will enter at one door, and leave out another. He’s keeping his protective shields up, maintaining spacing at the display cases and order counter, and will keep taking online orders for curbside delivery.
He said mask shaming won’t be allowed. If that happens, the mask shamer will be asked to leave.
“Some people, emotionally, just aren’t ready to go without a mask yet. It’s going to be a hard transition to make,” Duensing said. “But I’m excited about it because I miss the laughter and smiles.”
But employees at Mattie’s Foods, a vegan eatery in East Brookside, will continue to wear masks, and the owners will ask their customers to do the same.
“I’m not ready to take off the masks with new COVID cases coming in,” said Arvelisha Woods, co-owner of the restaurant with her sister. “We are a small business, so if one employee gets sick we have to shut down the whole business.”
She hopes customers comply.
“They can still order online and we will take it out to them. Or there are other places they can eat at,” she said. “But we are not going to put our employees at risk.”
No masks required here
A Store Named Stuff in Brookside dropped its mask requirement for customers at noon on Friday. But patrons are welcome to keep wearing them.
“We’re going to try to have an environment where people feel comfortable making their own choices,” said Casey Simmons, co-owner of the “artistic lifestyle” store. “If people come in and say do I need to wear a mask, our answer is going to be we would like you to do what you are comfortable doing.
“Obviously, if they are not vaccinated we would like them to be wearing a mask, for sure, especially if they’re finishing a waiting period or they’re waiting for their second shot or still in line to get their first shot. We’re really hoping people will make the right choice.”
Simmons and co-owner S. Sloane Simmons, who is her sister, began rethinking the store’s mask mandate when they heard the CDC’s announcement on Thursday.
They waited to find out what Lucas would say “because we felt like the strong messaging from the CDC was to listen to your municipalities, listen to your local needs,” said Casey Simmons.
“So we were really waiting on that, and that, I will be honest, came much quicker than we expected.”
Simmons said it will take time for many businesses to make changes, something she hopes customers will understand.
“As you can imagine, every business everywhere, small, medium, large … we’ve all created infrastructure around this,” she said.
“So we all have signage to deal with, we all have website information to deal with, we all have messaging to deal with, we all have social media to deal with. We have employees to think about, customers to think about.
“So that’s just a lot to think about and that’s a very quick flip just because all of our messaging has been very different for quite some time. So it’s just coming very quickly.”
She and her sister discussed their own personal comfort level with having mask-less customers in the store, “what we felt our customers needed from us and what our employees’ expectations were,” she said.
She said the store will make sure that everyone on staff is fully vaccinated and will wear masks until they are. And if they want to continue to wear masks even after being vaccinated, “we will honor that,” she said.
Customers of EB and Co. avoided buying large earrings because they tended to catch on masks, so Bordner expects those sales to come back this summer as people start socializing again at weddings and parties and head out for vacations.
“Those are all the fun excuses to start shopping again,” she said.
The Country Club Plaza store opened in March but postponed its grand opening until COVID restrictions were lifted. It now plans a grand opening event June 18 to 20 with new products and a sale.
“We wanted people to feel really comfortable,” she said.
Enders said most Made in KC employees are fully vaccinated by now, and customers might see signs telling them that.
Managers at some of the stores removed plexiglass barriers at the checkout counters as their employees got vaccinated.
The CDC’s announcement “felt very monumental to us,” said Enders. “Interestingly enough, this was one year from when we reopened our stores. So to us it does signal the beginning of the end.
“Of course, on a personal level I think all of us are more excited about what it means personally for friends and family, being able to be with each other, and visit people and hug and all those things.
“But as a business we’re excited that we can resume some of the other things we had on hold,” including opening new locations.
He said the store will continue selling masks because, “I don’t think mask-wearing is over by any means.
“My hope is that mask-wearing is somewhat normalized during flu season. I think we saw some really really positive benefits from low counts of flu this past season.”
But masks at Made in KC are a good deal now.
Like at EB, they’re half price.