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Virus Effects

People Feel The Strain Of Shutdown Weigh On Them

Samantha Cooley styles Mandy Morrison’s hair at Fringe Hair. Submitted photo

Whether referred to as a shutdown, stay at home, quarantine or whatever you like, COVID-19 has affected people of all ages and from all walks of life. Everyone from infants to the elderly have had their lives altered in some way. Medical procedures, milestone celebrations, and family gatherings have come to a halt. Doctors are meeting with patients through video conferencing, funerals are being live-streamed and restaurant food is available for curbside pickup.

Wilson Endurance Sports was created in 2017 with a mission to create athlete-centered, family friendly, grassroots events for every fitness level or ability.

“Registration for our events, which is 28 across New York state and one in Connecticut, have come to a complete halt. That’s how we make our living,” says Mark Wilson of Cassadaga.

Out of 28 events which take place from May through October, the first five have been canceled. The events that take place in the Hudson Valley and the Adirondacks are pending.

“We cannot collect unemployment because we’re self-employed. Thankfully, I coach athletes but I’ve lost 10% of my athletes due to them losing their jobs.”

Owner Jeff Dowiasz and many campers await the opening of Pope Haven Campground in Randolph. Submitted photo

Wilson is able to continue coaching because it is done remotely. A training program is given each week to help with weight-lose and to get the athletes in shape for the summer 10K they would like to run or a marathon in which they would like to participate in the fall.

“I’ve been doing it that exact way for over 20 years.”

He is hopeful his June events will be allowed to take place.

“If we get the go-ahead from our governor, we will host our first event on Wednesday, June 3 in Cassadaga,” said the coach. “That event is the Southern Tier Tri Series, which is a 400-yard swim, 13-mile bike ride and a 2-mile run. We have other events though out the summer in Chautauqua County.”

The first CassadagaMan event, scheduled to take place over Labor Day Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 5, will be a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. Saturday, Sept. 26 marks the Third Annual Amish Country Running Festival which includes a one mile, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and a marathon. The event begins in Randolph and continues along back roads in Amish country.

Mark Wilson and wife Tonia surrounded by the Southern Tier Triathlon Club at a 2019 event. Submitted photo

“People prepare way in advance for these events and if they need a coach, I’m available at coachmarkwilson.com or by calling (914) 466-9214,” stated Wilson.

Samantha Cooley, owner of Fringe Hair at 23 E. Third Street said “one of the hardest parts (of the shutdown) is the clients want their hair done. People are going to be knocking down the door to have their hair done when this is over.”

Cooley opened the salon in December 2017 and her last day of operation was March 21. Fringe Hair specializes in hair coloring, cutting, special-occasion styling and hair extensions.

“Basically, every hair service and make-up and facial waxing,” she said. “Good stylists are very creative and we have been stunted. I even highlighted my boyfriend’s hair the other day and have made tutorials and communicated with my clients.”

She is worried hairdressers will be restricted when they resume their services and they won’t be able to do the same quality of work they had done prior to closing. She wants solid guidelines from the government before she is given permission to reopen.

“I’m really hoping the government learns more about this virus so it’s safe to return to work,” Cooley said.

She isn’t concerned about having a business to return to, but about “having my feet on the ground and then having to shut down again. I feel like everyone is getting really antsy, but I hope it’s done very carefully.”

The other stylists in her shop regulate their own hours, therefore she’ll have no control over when their clients will be seen.

Another concern is the financial end of the business.

“With unemployment and SBA loans myself, other salon owners and business owners have really been staying in close contact. They share information and progress,” she says. “You really are finding out how tight-knit this community is during this time, while working together when it’s so hard to make contact and get answers from the government.”

She is able to homeschool her children, who are in first and third grades, during her time at home, but is looking ahead to when her work schedule resumes and wondering if there will be enough daycare to cover the children who would have been in school pre-virus.

“It’s challenging and it makes you appreciate the teachers so much more,” she said.

Not only is she not leaving her house to do the things she would ordinarily do because of social distancing, but under these circumstances, she has no extra money.

In Jeff Dowiasz’s case, he went from the security of owning two Stroehmann Bread routes and 40 apartments to being the owner Pope Haven Campground and Dowiasz Auto Service.

“I bought the garage next door because one son is a mechanic and the other son does detailing. I sold the Stroehmann routes and most of the apartments to buy the campground,” he says.

Before COVID-19, he employed 3-4 employees at the East Randolph auto repair business, which he has owned for two and one-half years. He now has one mechanic on duty to “keep a presence there” and pays unemployment for those which he had to furlough.

“It’s very slow because nobody is driving anywhere,” says the entrepreneur.

Under normal circumstances, his second business would be opening May 1, but it is currently unknown when he will be given permission to open.

“Some campgrounds have been able to open on weekends. There are 26 counties in New York (state) and Cattaraugus County is one of five that has not opened campgrounds. Chautauqua and Allegany Counties on either side of us have,” said Dowiasz. “If we’re not open for Memorial Day we will lose a lot of money.”

He told about the trickle-down effect to the local economy and how his campers, not only put money into his pocket, but do the same for supermarkets, restaurants, gas stations and tourist attractions.

“The county is losing by not having people come from other areas,” Dowiasz said. “They would be getting more fresh air and be farther apart than they are in their own homes.”

He has always spent his waking hours doing some sort of work. Since purchasing the recreational business on May 2, 2019, he has upgraded electricity, added a charging station for the golf carts and made changes to the camp store. There are three cabins and 160 sites on the property, along with a pond and a large heated swimming pool. Campers can take advantage of the basketball and volleyball courts, play Frisbee golf and on the playground and hike on the trails. There is a pavilion and golf cart rentals are available. Most visitors coming from out of the area shop along the Amish Trail and in nearby Randolph.

“If we have to live like this, I’d rather get the virus and go right now.” he said about the lack of freedom Americans are currently experiencing.

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