Various San Marcos businesses, ranging from coffee shops to local thrift stores, have taken different approaches to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order calling for the lifting of Texas' mask mandate and full reopening of businesses.
Abbott cited advancements in vaccinations, specifically the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the high number of recoveries from COVID-19 in the state as reasons for the decision. Since the lifting of the mask mandate on March 10, Hays County has averaged 36 cases, 52 recoveries and nearly one death per day. County Judge Ruben Becerra responded to Abbott's decision, calling it "premature and reckless".
H-E-B received backlash after announcing it would recommend masks instead of requiring all customers to wear them. On March 5, it reversed its position, stating all customers, employees and vendors must wear masks in its stores despite the mandate. Stores such as Costco, Walmart and Target have also followed suit and will continue to require employees and customers to wear masks in their stores.
Ryan Johnson, owner and creative director of San Marcos clothing store, The Unknown Concept, believes Abbott's decision to fully reopen Texas came too early since vaccinations only started a few months ago and COVID-19 cases have not dramatically decreased.
“We're not going to change, just yet, until we see cases continue to drop [and until] we see that there's more people that are getting the vaccine,” Johnson says. “I think it's a little premature, but we're not going to fight with anyone if they're not wearing masks. We’ll just continue to social distance; I mean our shop is pretty small so we try to.”
“We want to keep everyone safe. There's people that are getting vaccinated and that's great, but we want to make sure that we stay safe, keep ourselves safe... Our number one priority is customer safety and the people that work in the shop their safety as well," Johnson adds.
Mary Katie Tigert, a sales associate at Pitaya's San Marcos location, says the store will continue to limit the number of customers in the shop to 12, require customers to use hand sanitizer upon entry and wear a face mask.
“We feel like this is the best course of action because it protects the community as a whole instead of thinking about individual profit as a company,” Tigert says. “We want to do what's best for keeping the community safe and healthy, and if that means that we have to decrease business by lowering capacity, or we lose customers because of the masks, we think that's more important than making the sales [to] people who don't want to cooperate with [our] mask mandate.”
Just down the block from Pitaya, The Coffee Bar has kept its interior closed since March of last year. Emily Vaquera, a barista at The Coffee Bar, says the lifting of the mask mandate is reckless and makes her worried when around others in public.
Vaquera says in-store dining still remains uncertain and, along with her own personal fears, she worries about the health of her fellow employees as store staff is limited.
“There’s no word of opening up inside yet,” Vaquera says. “We probably won’t be open inside until the numbers of cases are consistently going down. This keeps our employees safe, and we can’t risk our health.”
Dave Mesa, a body piercer and owner of Tattoo Emporium, believes the mask mandate being lifted is good for those who have taken the precautions or dealt with COVID-19 before.
“I think it’s kinda cool that people have the choice [on] whether they want to or not [wear a face mask] if they’ve already had [COVID-19] or gotten the vaccination,” Mesa says.
Tattoo Emporium is continuing with walk-in services for piercings, but tattoos are by appointment.
“As far as our business goes, we do require 100% that everybody wear a mask. We don’t care if you’ve been vaccinated or not; you’re wearing it if you’re coming in here and getting work done,” Mesa says. “We are providing [nose piercings] because legally we can now, but we’re still recommending against it because the masks can cause hypertrophy and keloid scarring from irritation.”
David Marrs, owner of the vintage clothing store Vagabond, says he plans to keep store protocols the same and hopes customers will follow them. If not, he says they will not be allowed to enter.
“First, I just nicely tell them I have masks — free masks by the door and then if they’re like, ‘no’, well then you can’t come in,” Marrs says. “It’s usually not too bad, a lot of people step out. Sometimes [I] ask people to put their mask over their nose and they get mad. It just makes it harder when [Abbott] just kind of opens everything.”
For more information regarding COVID-19 policies and precautions at local businesses, contact them directly or visit their social media pages.