Lina Yea, owner of Bay Home & Linens boutique on San Mateo’s B Street, had something big to celebrate on June 15.
“Today is the first time we’re open with no limits to the number of people in the store,” she said cheerfully.
Granted, customers in droves weren’t clamoring to get in. Down the street, the colorful facade of Talbot’s Toyland had a “closed” sign on the door, thanking customers for 66 years of business, and B Street Books, selling used and collectible items, was observing its regular Tuesday closure.
Nearby, shoppers donned masks outside swanky grocer Draeger’s, waiting their turn outside to enter, and most of the restaurants on the Third Avenue, the main drag, lacked diners.
But the upscale fish house Pacific Catch’s parklet was filled with customers at wooden tables topped with bright blue bottles, and the Pancho Via Tacqueria had its usual lunchtime line out the door. It included Donna Lindsay, a masked Oakland woman who routinely visits her grandson in San Mateo. “Every chance we get, we have a little celebration by coming here,” said Lindsay.
Around the corner, Marc Richman was dining outside having a Popeye omelet with spinach, cheese and bacon at Bay Watch Restaurant, a no-nonsense diner doing brisk indoor business.
A Bay Watch semi-regular, Richman said, “The food’s good, the coffee’s good, it’s a beautiful day,” adding, “It’s amazing how many people are still wearing masks. I think that’s cool. I’m fully vaccinated. But you don’t know who isn’t.”
In Burlingame, at the popular breakfast spot Alana’s Cafe, Sean Welch, a Burlingame resident finishing a Jalisco scramble and dining outdoors with his 17-year-old daughter Zoe, had a similar thought: “It’s nice to be back. It’s a beautiful day for it. No doom and gloom.”
The Welches said though they recognized the dangers of the pandemic, they felt safe and weren’t paranoid.
Teresa Lindhartsen, owner of Alana’s Cafe, said the restaurant has done OK during the pandemic. “I don’t want to be braggadocious, but we’ve been here a while. We’re working hard. We’ve had great custormers. Business has been good,” she said, while cook Gerardo Enrequez was making the cafe’s signature oatmeal pancakes on the grill.
Lindhartsen, who was wearing a mask, didn’t do as well with a Redwood City branch of the cafe, which closed during COVID due to lack of daytime customers.
Next door, at Fiori, a flower shop, longtime manager Tina, who didn’t provide her last name, was asking patrons to continue to wear masks.
“I made a sign,” she said. “I just don’t think the virus knows what day it is,” she added, calling reopening day “weird” and “almost mystic.”
That wasn’t the case for Peter Francese, a masked hairdresser who’s worked at nearby UK Hair, for decades. “I can’t complain. All my clients are coming back. The last two weeks I’ve only had one opening. I’m really happy,” he said.
Yea, the linen shop owner who was able to get government support to stay in business, had a similar sentiment: “We’re definitely happy that this lockdown is lifted. People have a new sense of confidence. We’ve even extended our hours to make up for lost business.”
Admittedly, business could be better, she said, mentioning that the pandemic disrupted her regular supply of French linen and Italian ceramics, and that booming parklets have affected foot traffic.
On the other hand, she’s thrilled to support local artists whose work she sells — they didn’t experience supply issues — and to local seniors in the neighborhood.
“Our fun little shop is the only retail in San Mateo,” she said.