A few people were strolling through tree-lined Biltmore Village on a warm afternoon last week a few days after some retail shops had re-opened following an extended closure.

For the past several weeks, non-essential businesses have been closed in compliance with the Buncombe County and state Stay at Home orders enacted to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the gradual Phase 1 re-opening process, retail businesses were permitted to begin offering in-store shopping to customers on May 9.

Before opening their doors to customers, managers and owners of stores took precautionary measures to protect them and employees, as directed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s modified order for the initial re-opening process.

Tara Hackett, owner of Bette Boutique on All Souls Crescent, said that her shop was thoroughly cleaned and sanitized a couple of days before it re-opened May 11.

A sign at the entrance of the boutique advises customers to keep a safe distance from others and sanitize their hands—and welcomes them to wear face masks. And only four customers at a time are permitted in her store.

According to the modified state order, retail businesses are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and are required to direct customers to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.

As with many retail shops, current business hours are reduced at Bette Boutique, which is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Other stores that have re-opened in Biltmore Village include Williams-Sonoma, Talbots, Southern Tide, Scout, Palm Village, C&Co. Handcrafted Skincare, Nest and Jos A. Bank Clothiers. These shops are also are limiting the number of customers permitted to comply with the Phase 1 directive.

Rather than asking, some businesses are requiring customers to wear face masks as an added precaution, with signs noting that this measure is recommended by Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

At Biltmore Park Town Square in south Asheville retail businesses also are starting to re-open, while taking similar precautions.

Fleet Feet, an athletic shoe and accessories store, is making appointments for customers to be fitted for shoes while also permitting a limited number inside to shop.

All employees at Fleet Feet are wearing masks and having daily temperature checks to monitor their wellness. The store is also offering face masks to customers.

Since re-opening, the store has seen brisk business, said Fleet Feet manager Melissa Veasey.

“The response has been really positive,” Veasey said. “We’ve been really heartened by the response.”

Across the street on Town Square Boulevard is Talloni, A Shoe Salon, which also has re-opened with limited hours and customers permitted inside. The shop is offering gloves and hand sanitizer at the entrance and is encouraging customers and employees to wear masks and to practice social distancing.

Woof Gang Bakery, a pet supply and grooming business, is now open to customers and for grooming appointments. The store also is continuing to offer home delivery and curbside pickup, as are other businesses in the shopping center that remain closed for the time being.

Altar’D State, a women’s boutique, is among opened stores along with Orvis, a clothing and sporting goods store, Marthaler Jewelers and O.P. Taylor’s toy store.

A sign on the door of Spice and Tea Merchants of Asheville last week advised customers that the shop is in the process of re-configuring its store to comply with county and state safety guidelines and planned to open soon. In the meantime, the shop is continuing take phone and email orders.

Restaurants remain closed for dine-in services along with health clubs, fitness centers, entertainment facilities and personal care businesses as directed by the Phase 1 measure.

However, most restaurants in the shopping center are continuing to offer delivery and curbside pickup options, as well as REI, an outdoor recreation store, and bookseller Barnes & Noble.

Gov. Cooper announced May 5 that Phase 1 of the Stay at Home order would continue through May 22.

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