business open sign
From using spacial markers to ensure gym-goers stay six feet apart to bakeries shipping products country-wide, these businesses are taking unique spins on reopening to the public. — Getty Images/brightstars

As states begin setting timelines for lifting their COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, businesses across America are contemplating what that might mean for their operations. Many brick-and-mortar establishments have had to shift their operations or shut down entirely for a month or more, and the road back to normalcy is set to be a long and potentially difficult one.

Depending on the type of business you run and where you're located, your strategy for reopening post-coronavirus may look very different from other small businesses across the country, and even within the same state. However, one thing is common to all businesses: You must be prepared to proceed with caution, empathy and understanding.

Below, four business owners shared their perspectives on the impact of the pandemic on their operation, what they've been doing in the interim, and how they plan to proceed in the near-term.

CrossFit 11:24 (Marietta, Georgia)

Tyler and Callie Cooke, co-owners of CrossFit 11:24in Marietta, Georgia, preemptively closed their popular gym shortly before Governor Kemp's statewide shelter-in-place executive order went into effect on April 3.

On an average day before COVID, CrossFit 11:24 saw about 100 to 150 members per day attending its community-based group workout programs. After they closed, the husband-and-wife team set up a private Facebook group for its members to stay connected and work out together virtually.

"The biggest thing about CrossFit as a whole is the community," said Callie Cooke. "We had incredible engagement … with everybody posting videos and pictures of their workouts on social media."

[Read more: How to Use Facebook to Connect with Your Customers in Times of Crisis]

Despite taking a 25% to 30% hit to their revenue in paused or cancelled memberships, the Cookes were well-prepared for a shutdown: Before they officially closed, they had their entire facility fogged and disinfected, and stocked up on disinfecting products for their eventual reopening. They also began thoroughly planning and documenting their reopening procedures while they were shut down, so that when Governor Kemp's executive order was lifted, they could simply roll out their plan.

Workouts look a little different now that CrossFit 11:24 is reopened. Boxes are measured and taped out on the floor to ensure everyone remains six feet apart. Coaches wear masks throughout the class, and the the usual class schedule is staggered to allow extra time for disinfecting between classes.

While the Cookes had eager members back in the gym on the first day they reopened (all of whom are taking the new practices and precautions seriously, said Tyler), others have been wary — and that's OK, they said.

"Some people aren't ready to come back," Tyler added. "For us, the answer is always to do what's best for you and your family. We respect everybody's position and stance."

Premier Podiatry (Clifton, New Jersey)

As a healthcare facility, Dr. Velimir Petkov, DPM, has been able to continue seeing patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this has not been an easy task in northern New Jersey, just a stone's throw from the American epicenter of the virus. Therefore, Premier Podiatry has encouraged virtual visits through FaceTime and

"Tele-visits have always been convenient, but are currently an extremely popular choice," said Dr. Petkov. "We are happy to give our patients the option to be seen virtually whenever possible."

For emergency in-person visits, Premier Podiatry has implemented a phone pre-screening process.

"We kindly ask them to give us a call once they arrive in our building's parking lot," Dr. Petkov explained. "We do our best to bring patients in one by one in order to avoid unnecessary contact. All common areas and surfaces are sanitized after each visit. We also have our office deep-cleaned daily by a professional crew."

Regardless of when New Jersey lifts its indefinite stay-at-home order, which has been in effect since March 21, Dr. Petkov plans to continue serving his patients through multiple digital channels, including live chat, email, text and the office's 24/7 secure online patient portal.

"It is extremely important that we stay connected at all times," he said.

[Read more: How to Stay Connected to Your Customers During the Coronavirus Outbreak]

We thought it would be more beneficial to plan as though the crisis may continue and pivot in a way that we can appeal to a national audience instead of only local.

Nicole Pomije, creator and owner, The Cookie Cups

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The Cookie Cups (Wayzata, Minnesota)

Nicole Pomije, creator and owner of The Cookie Cups, had just opened her second bakery location five months before Governor Walz put Minnesota under a stay-at-home order on March 27. Pomije quickly got her bakery set up on DoorDash so she could take delivery orders from customers, but it's been a difficult transition, since a portion of her revenue came from hosting cooking classes and private events in-store.

"As with many businesses right now, we have had to stop and go with our normal operations," she told CO—. "In the meantime, we are planning out the next phase: whether open as usual or not. We will be able to 'reopen' in the near future, but … will we have the usual amount of walk-in traffic? Will we be able to have 10+ people in our cooking classes and birthday parties on site?"

With Governor Walz recently extending the state's stay-at-home order through May 18, Pomije has been working on developing a new product line that she plans to launch in early June. The new product will be shippable nationwide, allowing The Cookie Cups to introduce a new online revenue stream.

"We thought it would be more beneficial to plan as though the crisis may continue and pivot in a way that we can appeal to a national audience instead of only local," Pomije said. "We plan to re-market our business as a national product line … so we can start shipping our new 'Cookie Cup Experience' to families throughout the U.S."

Brinton Vision (St. Louis, Missouri)

Dr. Jason Brinton is reopening his laser vision correction practice, Brinton Vision, on May 4, per Governor Parson's announcement that all Missouri businesses can open, provided they follow social distancing guidelines.

In preparation for the reopening, Dr. Brinton has spent time training his non-clinical staff on a few basic, but important skills, like proper hand-washing.

"On a Zoom video conference, one of our surgery scrub technicians turned his laptop camera toward the kitchen sink in his apartment and reviewed proper hand washing for our receptionists, call center and back office staff," he said.

Brinton Vision is also carefully following the usual precautions for any medical facility: masking of customers and staff, hand-washing, careful phone screening, temperature checks, thorough disinfection protocols and social distancing to the extent possible on premises.

"We are providing face masks on arrival to anyone visiting our office, and reception staff have been trained on how to demonstrate proper wear," said Dr. Brinton.

[Read more: 6 Ways to Provide Great Customer Service During a Crisis]

While the lifting of governmental restrictions is a positive first step, Dr. Brinton noted that this alone is not enough to bring business back — customers must feel confident that the businesses they patronize have created a protected environment to which they can safely return.

"Businesses need to both say and demonstrate this clearly to their customers in a way that customers understand and in a way that provides them with confidence in the business’s safety programs," he explained. "Fear and uncertainty kill economic activity, and we need to address the causes of this directly when speaking to our customers."

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