As Phase 2 begins, eager customers return to Love Lane businesses

Across the North Fork, downtown areas are slowly coming back to life as the region enters Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan.

On Mattituck’s Love Lane, businesses that have been shuttered since mid March opened their doors once again Wednesday while restaurants reopened outdoor seating areas.

According to the New York Forward plan, Phase Two includes retail, professional services including real estate, finance and insurance, hair salons and barbershops as well as outdoor dining. Guidelines for masks, social distancing and other preventative measures are in place for each industry.

Several groups sat outside in the shade behind Ammirati’s, taking a break during mostly day trips to the North Fork.

“This is nice,” said Lori Jean Ferrante of Greenlawn, who stopped to sit outside with a bite to eat and cold drink with her daughter, Nichole. “Just to get out and do something fun, because we knew it wouldn’t be crowded [during the week.] We figured we’d grab something nice outside before stopping at the farm stands.

Their next stop was ice cream at Magic Fountain.

Aside from visiting the now-open shops and being able to sit and dine, Ms. Ferrante said she misses getting together with friends, manicures and her gym the most.

Georgine Ramos of Miller Place also enjoyed lunch al fresco with her husband and sister. “We’re so excited that there’s a place to come and sit outside,” she said. Leaving the house for leisure for the first time in months, Ms. Ramos said, felt “interesting.”

Despite some anxiety, she hopes mask vigilance and social distancing will continue. “As long as people abide by the rules, we’ll be OK,” she said.

Next door, an employee was sprucing up the patio at Roanoke Vineyards tasting room in preparation to reopen for wine by the glass.

Joanna Mazzella, who owns the Mint clothing boutique, said there was a little bit different inventory than normal at this time of year.

“I think there’s a pent up demand for shopping and restaurants and all of that because people want to get out and live their lives,” she said.

By mid afternoon, she was working to string together cloth face masks to hang in the shop window. The prints and patterns have become somewhat of a fashion statement amid the pandemic.

“We’re selling masks and a lot more casual,” Ms. Mazzella said. “People want ‘work from home’, they want casual backyard BBQs. It’s going to be that kind of summer. No events, no weddings, nothing like that.”

Perhaps the most sought-after commodity, though, are haircuts.

At times, a small line of people gathered outside of Haircutters of Love Lane attempting to get in for a long-overdue trim.

“I’m happy to be open so I can pay my bills, but it’s a little different,” said owner Sandra Lazar as she took down names for appointments outside. Some opted to schedule a few days in advance while others stuck around, waiting for an opening in between Wednesday’s appointments.

“We’re just going to have to get used to it and hopefully everybody will have a little patience with us, learning the new systems and how we have to do things,” Ms. Lazar said.

All business owners said extra attention is being put on cleaning and disinfecting their spaces. At least two shop owners on Love Lane were using UV disinfecting wand lamps that can be used on a variety of surfaces.

“We took all precautions we had to take,” Ms. Lazar said as she strapped a face shield around her forehead. “COVID-19 just hit everyone a little harder than we thought.”