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New business owners remain hopeful, plan returns amid lasting closures

  • Nishon Morgan of His and Hers Comics opened his new store on Bank Row in Greenfield 10 days before the order came to close nonessential businesses. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • His and Hers Comics on Bank Row in Greenfield had been open for 10 days before the order came to close non-essential businesses. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Mishel Ixchel, center, leads a hot yoga class at Fire+Embers Hot Yoga in Turners Falls in December. The studio was open for about three months before closing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Mishel Ixchel, center, leads a hot yoga class at Fire+Embers Hot Yoga in Turners Falls in December. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Owner Isaac Mass at Greenfield’s Garden Cinemas, which has been closed since March 15 and will remain that way until at least June. STAFF File PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/7/2020 7:02:49 PM

Nishon Morgan and his wife, Katy, had experienced just 10 days as co-owners of their new shop, His and Hers Comics on Bank Row in Greenfield, before Gov. Charlie Baker’s order restricting nonessential businesses to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close in March.

The Morgans are among a number of new business owners in Franklin County who saw their dreams dashed shortly after opening. Now, they’re hoping they can unlock their doors again on May 18, when Baker’s nonessential business restrictions are currently set to lift — unless there is another extension.

“Who knows when the governor will let nonessential businesses reopen?” Nishon Morgan asked.

While comic books stores across the country have been closed, Diamond Comic Distributors stopped shipping new books to stores knowing they had no customers. The distribution company intends to begin shipping again May 20, though this could change. Morgan said if they are allowed to ship, but he still can’t open, he will accept their delivery so books are in stock when customers can return.

“We were limiting to six customers at a time when restrictions were 25 people at a time, wiping down doors and counters after each customer, and using hand sanitizer before we closed, and we expect to do at least that when we reopen,” Morgan said. “We’re waiting to see what else the governor will require from us and hope we can afford and acquire what may be needed.”

In the meantime, the store is accepting submissions for its first Comic Book Art Contest. Entries must be family friendly and not include nudity, and while horror genre drawings are accepted, they must not include gore.

Prizes will be awarded in three categories: full color, black and white, and drawings submitted by those age 12 and under. Each category winner will receive a $25 gift certificate, and second-place winners will receive a $10 gift certificate. Entries are limited to one per person and can be submitted to hisandherscomicsgreenfield@gmail.com. Make sure to include a first and last name, category and phone number.

Similarly, Fire+Embers Hot Yoga on Second Street in Turners Falls had just opened on Dec. 21. After three months in business, owner and instructor Mishel Ixchel had to close the studio’s doors on March 15 in accordance with the governor’s orders.

“I don’t plan on opening anytime soon,” Ixchel said Wednesday. “I feel it is too soon to get a group of people in a hot room together.”

Ixchel anticipated business for hot yoga to slow down as the summer approached anyway, saying “only the hard-core people show to hot yoga in July or August.”

In the meantime, business is all virtual. Patrons have had access to an array of virtual movement workshops and classes through the studio’s website and Facebook page, as well as group Zoom calls.

Activities include a 10-minute video on pranayama deep breathing, which can help with anxiety and stress reduction. Ixchel teaches a “26+2” yoga sequence that involves 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Each lesson opens with a pranayama deep breathing exercise.

Ixchel is also leading 30-day yoga and detox at-home retreats. The retreats are designed to help patrons create “long-lasting transformations” in their lifestyles.

“It’s a really gentle detox, mostly just cleaning up the quality of food being consumed,” Ixchel explained.

Participants are shipped a 30-day detox kit with products that are meant to nourish and detoxify the body.

About a month before Ixchel opened Fire+Embers Hot Yoga, Isaac Mass and his wife, Angela, purchased a more established business: Greenfield’s Garden Cinemas.

The movie theater, which has been closed since March 15, will remain closed until at least June, Mass said.

“We’re following the industry, but the industry is still figuring it out themselves,” Mass said.

Even if the theater reopens in June, major movie releases have been postponed by months, and in some cases up to a year. Without films to show, major movie theater chains are remaining closed beyond the orders of state governments. Mass said the theater has a copy of the 2018 film “Burden” starring Forest Whitaker, which will be at least one “new” movie for the Garden to screen upon reopening.

“We have seven screens and want to run as many as possible,” Mass said. “We will probably play movies on multiple screens to help with social distancing.”

The theater is now selling T-shirts through a third party to raise money. The shirts, which can be viewed on the theater’s website, gardencinemas.net, feature two different designs and the words “Intermission 2020,” a reference to the temporary closure.

In the meantime, Mass said Garden Cinemas is in the process of bringing staff back to conduct cleaning and cosmetic improvements. The theater has been working to install insulation to help with heating, cooling, energy efficiency and soundproofing.

Additionally, during the closure, Mass was planning to replace the chairlift to improve accessibility to the theaters. However, the current executive orders prohibit construction in nonessential commercial businesses, and preparations for the chairlift are not completed yet. Mass said he hopes this limitation on construction will be lifted after May 18, and construction will continue as they aim to have full accessibility for mechanical wheelchairs in theaters upon reopening.

“That’s our goal, but a lot of that is outside of our control,” Mass said.

Though the Masses now own the Garden Cinemas business, they are in the process of purchasing the building. They plan to have this deal complete before reopening, but are waiting for the installation of the new chairlift before finalizing the sale. Additionally, Mass said the business is applying for a beer and wine license, but this will not be approved until a license hearing can be held.


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