An increasing COVID-19 case count is something local businesses are trying to help keep down, in their own ways.
And that effort has created a new role for employees, one that meets you before you even get inside.
Whether you are going to your favorite shop downtown -- or your favorite restaurant -- you may have noticed someone waiting for you at the door that is playing a brand new role.
That is the role of the greeter.
That role keeps it so that customers can come in during these times as the numbers keep climbing and they can keep the virus out.
"We never want to rush people,” says Michal Madeline, general manager of Cactus Records, located in downtown Bozeman. “There’s so much to look at. That’s kind of been a balance for us. Everyone has to be a greeter.”
Taking your shopping downtown, you normally meet employees inside.
Now, they are the first masked face you see when you go through the front door.
“It’s a small business downtown and we don’t have a huge amount of staffing and that means we all get to take turns,” Madeline says. “That’s one of the controllable pieces that we have is our capacity.”
Many greeters hold tally counters.
And when you go inside, you can see why, including at Cactus Records.
“We have a little capacity sign that we try to jump up when we hit about 10 people or so just to make sure that everyone has room to shop safely,” Madeline says.
Madeline adds this also makes these masked employees something they didn't expect to be: face mask enforcers, to a point.
But she and her greeters try to make it fun.
“I think at the very beginning, it was really frustrating but I think that just the understanding that it is about community and not about individuality, it’s hard to differentiate those things,” Madeline says. “We totally encourage wearing tutus. Absolutely. If I am going to require you to wear a mask, I should encourage you to wear something fun.”
Across Main Street, Country Bookshelf has its own way of greeting customers in the new normal.
“If we get to that point where we feel like we are close to that limit, we have a sign that we put out,” says Ariana Paliobagis, Country Bookshelf owner. “If they are all right bunched up near the front, then that’s different than if they are evenly dispersed throughout so we really try to keep an eye on that.”
Paliobagis says both greeters and signs are met only occasionally with anger.
“We have occasional people who come in and say not-nice things and we, you know, always offer people if you don’t want to wear a mask and follow the safety precautions, we can serve you over the phone with curbside pickup, with delivery,” Paliobagis says.
A strategy to help make the requirement a bit easier to don.
“It really comes down to just mindfulness; how far apart are you guys? How many people do we have coming in at a time?” Madeline says. “Do you have a large family that you are trying to bring in all at once? Okay, cool, then we are going to have to wait for the store to clear out quite a bit. I think we just need to understand that the community at large is already benefiting from this tiny change.”