Sassy Owl

Sassy Owl Boutique owner Carrington Kelly and customer Heather Dotson wear masks while discussing selections in the downtown Decatur store on Thursday. [MICHAEL WETZEL/DECATUR DAILY]

Decatur business operators said they're ready for the state mask mandate to end Friday, but most plan to encourage customers and staff to continue mask wearing, at least in the short term.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has said she'll let the order requiring masks expire Friday.

“If Gov. Ivey drops the mask mandate, we’re not going to require masks to be worn,” said Charles Christopher, manager of Martin’s Family Clothing. “However, our associates will be wearing them for the time being. We’ll monitor other businesses and see how our customers react to any change. Presently, we encourage our customers to wear them. I believe most people are like me, we’re ready for most things to get back to normal.”

The rate of positive COVID-19 cases in the state continues to fall, but the Alabama Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend the public to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands. Only one new case of COVID-19 was reported for Morgan County on Friday, and the 14-day average was 6.1 daily cases. There have been 266 deaths due to COVID reported for the county.

Decatur police spokeswoman Irene Martinez said last week the department has not issued any citations for violating the city's mandatory mask ordinance or the state order. City Council members have said they'll vote Monday to end Decatur's mask ordinance when Ivey's order ends.

Carrington Kelly, owner of the Sassy Owl Boutique on Second Avenue Southeast in Decatur, said she will leave the mask-wearing decisions up to the individual.

“I won’t be requiring masks,” she said. “Each individual has rights, and I want people to know they can be free to express their rights while shopping with us.”

She said her women’s clothing store staff will continue to sanitize and practice social distancing when necessary.

'Not a magic date'

Sassy Owl customer Heather Dotson of Hartselle said she is cautious about the masks coming off.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “It’s exciting to feel a little more normalized again.”

She said she was in Chattanooga two weeks ago and the city had a mask mandate in place. “Everyone was required to wear a mask,” she said. “Everywhere there, you needed to a mask to go inside a building.”

Another downtown Decatur shopper, Linda Collier, who was browsing at Pineapples, said she is not so sure lifting a mask mandate is the right thing to do at this time.

“Just because Gov. Ivey said it is OK, people should still use caution,” said Collier, 66, of Athens. “There’s not a magic date to stop wearing them. It’s about taking care of each other. I’m going by science not the politicians. I will continue to follow the CDC guidelines. They aren’t perfect, but I believe in following the science. This pandemic is a health issue, we all know somebody who has died from it. … I remember when polio, measles, mumps were part of our lives. I’ll wear my mask until the CDC says it’s safe. It’s so little to ask to help others stay healthy.”

Collier said she has received both of her vaccine injections and encouraged others to do so.

Pineapples owner Melinda Collier, no relation, said her staff won’t be wearing masks once the governor’s order goes in place. “But if a customer comes in wearing a mask and they’ll feel more comfortable, we’ll put our mask on,” she said. “About 50% of our customers don’t want to wear them now. But we’ve got a lot of older customers and many of them have had their (vaccination) shots.”

Wearing a double mask last week, Melinda Jones, owner of Second Read Books on Second Avenue, said she’ll still mask up regardless of Ivey’s announcement.

“I’ll continue to wear my mask out of respect and safety for others,” she said. “I plan to do it while things continue to improve and the numbers look better and more of the population gets vaccinated.

"I’ll strongly encourage our customers to wear a mask, but it’ll be their personal decision.”

Jones said she has received her vaccination.


Restaurateurs across Decatur are welcoming the news that Ivey intends to lift the mandate.

Enrique Salcido, owner of Las Vias Mexican restaurants on Sixth Avenue Southeast and in Hartselle, said he will leave signs up inside encouraging his customers to wear masks, but it won’t be required.

“I know most of our customers are eager for the mask mandate to be over,” he said.

Salcido said his kitchen staff will continue to wear masks.

“But it is difficult for our wait staff to wear a mask for a full shift,” he said. “I’m going to leave it up to the individual employee if they want to wear a mask.”

He said the plexiglass surrounding the cashier will remain at least through the end of the year.

At Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q on Sixth Avenue Southeast, General Manager Paul Collins said customers and employees alike can go mask-free if they desire.

“As for our employees, we’re leaving it up to them on a personal basis. If they want to continue to wear one they can, but it won’t be required either,” he said. “I’m happy to see some things starting to return to normal.”

Jason Such, owner of Such-N-Such restaurant on U.S. 31 South, said the governor’s decision won’t change things much at his restaurant.

“About 40% of our customers coming in aren’t wearing a mask already,” he said. “We aren’t policing it. As for my employees, I’m leaving the option of wearing a mask up to them. … Most have signed up to get vaccinated.”

John Seymour, president and chief executive officer of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is taking “a wait-and-see” approach to the governor lifting a mask mandate.

“We haven’t had any discussion about it,” he said last week.

Mayor Tab Bowling said he and his wife Sherry will continue to don masks. “At least for now, we’ll feel better with them,” he said. “We’ll still social distance and follow CDC protocols.”

He said he received the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine last week and has had no ill effects.

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