© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local News

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1

Phase 1 of North Carolina's plan to reopen from the coronavirus shutdown began Friday evening. Saturday was the first full day in nearly six weeks that some nonessential businesses were allowed to open. The stay-at-home order is still in effect, and only groups of 10 or fewer people are allowed to gather — though friends are now permitted to gather outdoors, provided social distancing measures are followed.

WFAE reporters, producers and editors went to various locations in the Charlotte area to capture what Day 1 of Phase 1 looked and sounded like.

8:10 a.m.

Bailey Road Park, Cornelius 

fitness2.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
Walt and Kyle Gouveia are leading a fitness class on a soccer field in Cornelius.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Walt Gouveia says NC residents appear ready to return to normal life.

Brothers Walt and Kyle Gouveia are leading a fitness class on a soccer field. About 20 people are in a long line across one end of the field, doing pushups, arm circles, stretching and other exercises. Walt Gouveia says it's the second Saturday in a row they've been out here. Last week, half as many people showed up. 

"Seems like everyone's getting a little bit more comfortable. They realize that we're taking all the safety precautions. Everyone's got their own towel. Everyone's at least six feet apart from each other," Gouveia said. "It's good to see everyone. Everyone's just ready to go back to real life. Let's go!"

They're not the only ones in the park. People are jogging and bicycling around the fields. And nearby there's a 7-on-7 pickup soccer game. No social distancing there.

-- David Boraks

8:45 a.m.

Main Street, Davidson

davidson1.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
Parking spaces along Main Street in Davidson were full.

Parking spaces were filled and cyclists and joggers were out Saturday as people returned to Main Street in Davidson. 

The regular Saturday Davidson Farmers Market remains closed due to concerns about social distancing. Main Street Books is also still closed, though they'll reopen Monday, May 11, for order pickups only.

davidson2.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
The line is still out the door at Summit Coffee in Davidson.

As usual, the line was out the front door of Summit Coffee on Main Street Davidson. A crowd of men sat at a picnic table out back.

-- David Boraks

9:50 a.m.

Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte

park_road_julies_2.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
Julie's Boutique at Park Road Shopping Center was open Saturday for the first time in weeks.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Aron Strause of Julie's Boutique at Park Road Shopping Center explains how the clothing boutique will function as it reopens Saturday.

It’s a little before 10 a.m. Saturday, and Aron Strause is getting ready to open Julie’s Boutique, a clothing store in Park Road Shopping Center, for the first time since the governor’s stay-at-home order.

park_road_julies_3.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
Don't forget your social distancing at Julie's Boutique in Park Road Shopping Center.

An employee is wheeling sale racks onto the sidewalk and the social distancing markers are in place.

“Fitting rooms are open,” Strause said. “We’re gonna have somebody stationed back there with a mask, gloves, Lysol, hand sanitizer, wipes, all the fixin’s, and after they try the clothes on we take 'em to the back of the store, steam 'em, let 'em sit for 24 hours and go from there.”

Strause isn’t sure what to expect, but he’s hopeful.

“We’re hoping that people are kind of like stir-crazy in their houses and ready to get out into the new normal, with masks and smiling faces under their masks,” he said.

Most of the people walking the sidewalks Saturday morning are masked. People are greeting each other at a safe distance, dogs less so.

park_road_brewster.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
James Brewster has decided to keep customers out of Park Road Books for now. He's doing curbside pickup and home delivery, as he did before Phase 1.

Next door, James Brewster at Park Road Books is doing what he’s been doing for the last few weeks: Running books out to drop in customers’ trunks and filling orders for delivery. He decided it’s not yet time to let people in to browse through books.

“We can’t really sanitize all of our product, so that makes it a huge challenge,” Brewster said.

Things aren’t busy by pre-COVID standards, but Brewster sees a change.

“There’s a lot more cars in the parking lot and a lot more people walking up and down the sidewalks,” he said.

He said the Phase 1 changes are bringing some life back.

park_road_dogs.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
Shaun Stucker (left) and Molly Cieri stop for a socially distant chat at Park Road Shopping Center with their dogs, Frankie (sitting) and Beanz.

“We have several of the retail establishments – Julie’s, Brownlee Jeweler’s, Onward Reserve – as well as a couple of the restaurants that had closed for awhile,” Brewster said.

As for what the bookstore’s regulars are likely wondering: Yes, Yola the bookstore dog is doing just fine.

“She gets her belly rubs no matter what,” he says.

-- Ann Doss Helms

11:45 a.m.

Lake Norman State Park, Troutman

IMG_20200509_114914070.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
People were fishing and kayaking Saturday at Lake Norman State Park.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Jeremy Duke and friend Tillmon Cook went to Lake Norman State Park when it opened Saturday.

Most North Carolina state parks reopened at 10 a.m. Saturday with limited activities. At Lake Norman State Park in Troutman, the parking lot at the visitors center was about one-third full by midday. For regular visitors like Rick and Helen Beam of Mooresville, the reopening wasn't a minute too soon.

IMG_20200509_114026559_HDR.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
Rick and Helen Beam of Mooresville were glad to be able to walk the trails again at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman.

"Well, we've come to this park every weekend for the last year and a half, and it's been very sad for the last two months that we haven't been able to come here," Rick Beam said. "So today it's opened, and we're back out here. We'll be back out tomorrow just enjoying walking -- her and I, my wife, and our dog -- just enjoying the fresh air and the beauty of North Carolina." 

The park wasn't crowded, but more people arrived as the day went on. The visitor's center remains closed. But people were out walking, running or riding their mountain bikes on trails. Others fished in the park's lake or in the fingers of Lake Norman that surround it. 

Tillmon Cook and Jeremy Duke were there from Midland in Cabarrus County.

"We actually came out to do a little trail run, so we ran about six miles this morning," Cook said. "... We wanted to get some exercise in."

It was only his second time at the park. They had hoped to go to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, but trails there were closed. 

IMG_20200509_113711244_HDR.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
Tillmon Cook and Jeremy Duke of came to Lake Norman State Park Saturday for a trail run.

"It is really nice being able to come out here and enjoy this nice weather. Absolutely perfect conditions," Jeremy Duke said. "Honestly, every weekend I'm outside, so it's kind of aggravating when parks are closed. But I understand why. Obviously I wish everything was open and back to normal, but I understand, you know, phasing it in the way they are.  It's just a process we've got to go through." 

State guidelines for park reopenings suggest that everyone wear face coverings. Just one woman was spotted wearing a mask during our time there. 

-- David Boraks

12:13 p.m.

Indian Trail Hardware, Indian Trail

IMG_1187.jpg
Credit Jennifer Lang / WFAE
/
WFAE
The line of cars waiting for pickup at Indian Trail Hardware.

At least one store still only allowing pickup service -- Indian Trail Hardware in Indian Trail. And the line for pickup was a long one.

-- Jennifer Lang

12:36 p.m.

Central And Norland, East Charlotte

image_from_ios__3_.jpg
Credit Claire Donnelly / WFAE
/
WFAE
Flory Amada, left, and Irma Sanchez sell flowers and Mother's Day gifts off Central Avenue in east Charlotte.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Flory Amado was selling gifts at Central Avenue and Norland Road in east Charlotte.

Irma Sanchez and Flory Amado sell flowers and Mother’s Day gifts in a parking lot just off busy Central Avenue and Norland Road in east Charlotte. Vases of red roses and containers of pink silk daisies sit on folding tables. Rows of plastic-wrapped gift baskets are arranged in the grass, facing passing traffic. 

“Un poquito de alegría para esta pandemia que estamos viviendo, verdad? El tiempo no está bien pero para el dia especial de la madre creo que es un bonito día para festejarlo,” Amado said. (“A little happiness for this pandemic that we’re living, right? These times aren’t good but for special Mother’s Day I think that it is a beautiful day to celebrate.”)

Sanchez and Amado set up their roadside business about an hour ago but haven’t had many customers. They said they’re glad that Charlotte businesses are starting to reopen this weekend but are careful to wear their masks and gloves. 

Sanchez said she has spent much of the past six weeks in her home. She used to run a business selling hot dogs from a cart — and a separate business peddling home furnishings like bedspreads and curtains — but she said sales dried up as more and more people were laid off because of the coronavirus. “Yo tengo los billes: la luz, el agua, la renta, el gas--todo sobrepasado. No se que vamos hacer,” Sanchez said. (“I have bills: electricity, water, rent, gas--all overdue. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”) 

-- Claire Donnelly

12:53 p.m.

Veterans Memorial Park, Plaza Midwood

96215620_3088719554521278_1420142863546580992_n.jpg
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
/
WFAE
A child runs in Veterans Memorial Park in Plaza Midwood on Saturday

At Plaza Midwood's Veterans Memorial Park, folks were practicing social distancing for the most part. The park was not overwhelmed and people were spread out.

-- Sarah Delia

12:59 p.m.

Piccolo, Belmont

belmont_piccolo.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
Susanne LaVecchia, manager of Piccolo Antique and Consignment Mall in Belmont, says she hopes traffic will build as people get more comfortable with the eased restrictions.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Susanne LaVecchia, manager of Piccolo Antique and Consignment Mall in Belmont, said customers are trickling in.

The Gaston County city of Belmont has plenty of essential businesses around its outskirts, but downtown is full of the kind of shops that are more like treats than essentials – places like and Piccolo Antique and Consignment Mall.

Piccolo manager Susanne LaVecchia said she’s seen a trickle of customers Friday evening and Saturday.

"I think tomorrow will be a good day, but I don’t think it’s just going to be, 'Wow, everyone’s out at once,'" LaVecchia said. "People are still a little bit, well not leery, but just, they want to be cautious. Let’s just say that."

-- Ann Doss Helms

1 p.m.

Mine By Sandy, Davidson

minebysandy.jpg
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
/
WFAE
Mine By Sandy owner Sandy Bowers poses in her Davidson boutique after it opened Saturday.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Mine By Sandy owner Sandy Bowers says the way her Davidson boutique does business will change.

Gov. Roy Cooper's Phase 1 reopening allows more retailers to open. In Davidson, designer clothing shop Mine By Sandy opened its doors at noon on Saturday, and shoppers began trickling in. Owner Sandy Bowers says she stayed in touch with her clients throughout the two-month shutdown by staying active on social media. 

That included regular "meet the designer" video chats with the designers she sells, many in California. She continued selling online and by phone, but she's glad to be fully open again. "I've been in business for 13 years and I have to say this is a unique time," she said,

Bowers said she kept all nine employees on the payroll. 

"I'm very happy and I'm very grateful that we can open. I'm grateful that we're healthy and that my customers want to come see me," she said. 

Bowers says it's important that her customers feel safe when they come to the store. She and her staff are wearing masks and they've put down floor markings to remind shoppers of social distancing. 

"We're doing it safely. We have our masks. We have our sanitizer. We're going to do whatever we can to provide a safe environment for our customers so that we can all survive and thrive and so my business can as well," Bowers said. 

She's also preparing for changes that the pandemic is bringing to shoppers' tastes. 

"I don't think that business is going to be like it was, at all," Bowers said. "I think my buy is going to change. It already has. People are buying much more comfortable things than they are buying fancy things. And that's all right. We'll figure it out."

-- David Boraks

1:10 p.m.

Surprise Me, Belmont

belmont_surprirse.jpg
Credit Ann Doss Helms / WFAE
/
WFAE
Poochie Dotson, owner of Surprise Me, reopened her shop in downtown Belmont on Saturday.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Poochie Dotson owns Surprise Me in downtown Belmont. She says hopes things get back to normal soon.

Next door to Piccolo on North Main Street is a novelty store called Surprise Me.

"This is a walk-around town, and people will just drop in, drop in, drop in," said Poochie Dotson, owner of Surprise Me.

She opened at 10 a.m., and in her first three hours she says saw friends and regulars as well as some people who moved to Belmont after the stay-home order and were out exploring.

But it was nowhere near the normal volume, she said. She got a bit emotional when she talked about her hope for the coming days.

"I think as it goes a little longer people are going to get more used to this and just start trying to live more normal," Dotson said. "So, I’m looking forward to it."

A customer told Dotson things are almost too busy a few miles to the west.

"It is crazy in Gastonia," the customer said, laughing. "I mean, crazy."

-- Ann Doss Helms

1:17 p.m.

Common Market, Plaza Midwood

96724884_545436886010927_2102202194345328640_n.jpg
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
/
WFAE
On a lovely spring day, the line of people waiting for lunch orders at Plaza Midwood's Common Market stretched down the sidewalk.

On a lovely spring day, the line of people waiting for lunch orders at Plaza Midwood's Common Market stretched down the sidewalk.

-- Sarah Delia

1:18 p.m.

Old Eastland Mall Site

image_from_ios__2_.jpg
Credit Claire Donnelly / WFAE
/
WFAE
Dyson Whidbee stands on his skateboard at the Eastland DIY Skatepark on Saturday.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Joshua Coleman said Saturday was a great day to get some time in at Eastland DIY Skatepark.

Joshua Coleman rests his foot on his skateboard at the Eastland DIY skatepark. 

“It was a beautiful day so I figured I’d come to the skate spot--just hang out, you know. I wasn’t really going to do anything because of quarantine. But it was a beautiful day so I did want to get outside,” Coleman said.

He said he used to come to the skatepark between three and four times per week but with North Carolina and Mecklenburg County’s stay-at-home orders, he’s only visited a couple of times in the past two weeks. Coleman said when parks were closed, police officers made increased visits to the Eastland site. 

According to Coleman, it’s easy to social distance while skating. 

“I’ve been on these two ramps for like the past 30 minutes by myself and no one’s even been bothering me,” he said. 

Dyshon Whidbee, a fellow skater, is warming up to film some tricks with his friends. 

“I’ve been treating every day as normal, really,” Whidbee said about his experience during the stay-at-home orders. He works at The Humane Society of Charlotte, which has stayed open for adoptions and other appointments, but said he comes to the skatepark whenever he can.

-- Claire Donnelly

1:24 p.m.

Moxie Mercantile, Plaza Midwood

96512132_854831051690999_3183296495549939712_n.jpg
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
/
WFAE
Moxie Mercantile employees are masked and ready for customers.

Moxie Mercantile was open for business on Commonwealth Avenue in Plaza Midwood. Employees were masked up and ready for customers.

-- Sarah Delia

1:41 p.m.

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve

wally.JPG
Credit Jesse Steinmetz / WFAE
/
WFAE
Wally the dog wouldn't pose for photos Saturday at Reedy Creek's dog park. He was too busy doing his thing.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
CMS teacher Marsha Robeson and her dog, Wally, took advantage of the nice weather Saturday at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve.

Wally is one of a handful of dogs stretching his legs at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve's dog park. Marsha Robeson motions to her dog: “Come here Wally, say, 'This is why I came to the park.'”

Few dog owners are wearing masks this afternoon, but for the first time in weeks, Robeson says she is just happy to be out with her family.

“It’s a beautiful day and it’s Mother’s Day Weekend, so I’m lucky to have my daughters with me, and we decided to come to the park. The dogs are having fun running and playing. My husband, who was supposed to be watching the dog, evidently saw someone he knew, so that’s where we are right now.”

Despite the good weather, the realities of the pandemic aren’t far from Robeson’s mind. She is a high school teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and she empathizes with her students who are about to graduate.

“It’s been a very, very long time," Robeson said. "I hate it for my seniors but it’s a bigger thing that we all need to be concerned about. I just hope we see the end of this eventually.”

-- Jesse Steinmetz

2 p.m.

CLTCH, Plaza Midwood

IMG_6459.JPG
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
/
WFAE
Linda Martinez of CLTCH on Central Avenue is ready for shoppers on Saturday.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Lesa Kastanas of CLTCH talks about business in Plaza Midwood on the first full day of Phase 1 of North Carolina's reopening plan.

There were only two customers in at CLTCH in Plaza Midwood – both wearing masks per store policy.

Lesa Kastanas is part owner of CLTCH, The Diamond, Kiki's and Soul. She said things weren't too busy at CLTCH, though the store was running a Mother's Day sale.

"It's been really lonely," Kastanas said. "It's been a lot of dealing with anxiety from different levels and wondering if we can survive but feeling like the Plaza Midwood and the surrounding neighborhoods here have been so supportive. It's a renewed effort to feel like we have to be there for everyone.

"Whether it's from the restaurant business or form here in this small boutique, we just really have felt the love."

Puzzles have been a big hit for the store during the pandemic, as people search for things to do at home. But CLTCH had to get creative about interacting with customers and selling products.

"What we did was sell things on Instagram, have people call us, and it's not the easiest way to do things," Kastanas said. "It's frustrating for everyone, but people were very considerate about that."

-- Sarah Delia

2:07 p.m.

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve

jesse_2.jpg
Credit Jesse Steinmetz / WFAE
/
WFAE
Michelle Harrison hangs out at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve on Saturday.

NC Starts To Reopen: A Snapshot Of Life Around Charlotte On Day 1 Of Phase 1
Michelle Harrison's family gathered at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve on Saturday for a picnic.

Three generations of Harrisons gather around a picnic table at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve. Chicken wings and pickles are laid out for the whole family. 

“We’re just celebrating our granddaughter’s 20th birthday today,” said Michelle Harrison.

Since the stay-at-home order took place, Harrison says her family has only gone out for essentials like gas, doctor’s appointments and groceries. This weekend they decided to take advantage of the recently loosened restrictions. 

“We heard the parks were opening and we decided to come on out and get some fresh air," Harrison said. "We’ve been stuck in the house all these months and weeks."

For Mother’s Day, she would like to make one more outing:

“Church tomorrow, if we’re able, and then back to stuck in the house.” 

-- Jesse Steinmetz

2:25 p.m.

Midwood Park, Plaza Midwood

IMG_6479.JPG
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
/
WFAE
The basketball hoop at Midwood Park. Sorry.

Parks might be open, but not every facet is. This basketball hoop at Midwood Park in Plaza Midwood was still blocked off, preventing anyone from playing.

-- Sarah Delia

WFAE's Nick de la Canal, Jodie Valade and Dashiell Coleman contributed to audio and digital production.

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.

_