Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Noah Nichols works out at the Rock Fitness Center on Friday, April 24, 2020 in Ringgold, Ga. Gyms, along with hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors were among the businesses allowed to open on Friday.

On Friday morning in the parking lot of Battlefield Salon in Fort Oglethorpe, Sharon Walker sat in her car and waited for the new coloring in her hair to set in.

There was a white garbage bag covering the headrest in her SUV and foils still in her hair.

Walker scrolled around on her phone for a bit before looking at her nails.

"I might go get my nails done too," Walker said. "They're getting so long."

Walker was one of a half dozen people who waited in their vehicles outside the salon either before or during their hair appointments as certain businesses across the state opened in Georgia as part of Gov. Brian Kemp's aggressive plan to reopen the state's economy.

On Friday, hair salons, spas, gyms, barbershops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys were among the businesses that reopened to the public, making Georgia one of the first states in the country to start reversing economic shutdowns that were designed to stop the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

By Monday, movie theaters will be clear to resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.

Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and entertainment venues will still be closed.

"It's been really hurting people my age," Walker said of the shutdown. "I came out to get my hair done and just move around and to be around people other than my spouse. I'm glad places are opening up."

Walker is a retired nurse who lives in Jasper, Tennessee. Her daughter's a nurse in Ooltewah and was furloughed from her job.

"It's a shame what's happening to our economy," Walker said.

Walker said she normally gets her hair done every four to six weeks and was eager to get out of the house and support the salon she's been going to for two years.

A few minutes after Walker got the call from the salon to head back in, 18-year-old Dawson Thompson walked out with a fresh cut.

"I needed a haircut so bad," Thompson said with a laugh.

The last one he had was over four weeks ago and he tries to not go more than two weeks without. Thompson is a senior at Ridgeland High School in Rossville. Even though things are up in the air with graduation and the rest of his last year in high school, he's hopeful things will go back to normal soon.

"I'm ready for it," he said.

Justin Hindman is the owner of Gent's Classic Men's Haircuts in Ringgold. Hindman had clients crowding the small parking lot in front of the shop.

"We're only doing two people in the shop at a time," Hindman said while wearing a cloth mask. "We're changing out capes, gloves, neck strips and everything else after every customer."

A few miles down the road in Catoosa County, Noah Nichols did reps at a bicep curl machine at Rock Fitness Center. Nichols has been a member of the gym for more than 10 years and has been itching to get back to the gym.

"It's been frustrating," he said. "We're able to social distance pretty well at the gym, and I don't feel like there is a real threat to catch anything here."

Nichols said he is lucky to have a job that is considered essential. His wife has been working from home, and he admitted they and a lot of their friends have been going stir crazy at home.

"We've been cooped up a bit so this is a breath of fresh air," Nichols said.

Shop owners were given strict social distancing and hygiene requirements to follow earlier this week, and some of them came late Thursday night as Kemp signed a last-minute executive order.

Tyler Waters is the manager and part-owner of Rock Fitness Center. The gym has implemented a number of new protocols like requiring people to bring their own towels and making dozens of disinfecting spray bottles available.

Waters said he was planning to open up his pool and basketball court with added social distancing requirements. However, at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, he read Kemp's order that stated those facilities should still be closed.

Waters said he wasn't going to allow full court basketball or group swimming sessions but hoped a few people could use each facility at a time. Even now he has no clue when he'll be able to open those up.

Waters said it's been especially difficult for his seniors that are members of the gym who rely on water aerobics as a way to stay active and a reason to get out of the house. He said the gym averages at least 60 seniors every day and at least 34 of them are in the morning water aerobics class.

"It's been tough for them because they've been sitting on the couch every day, they lose strength in their legs and that can keep them from going to the grocery store and go out and do normal things," he said.

As far as feeling safe at the gym for himself and his members, Waters said opening gyms should be a safe bet.

"I'm not as nervous about it because when you're not feeling good, the gym is the last place you want to be," Waters said, adding that the sanitation procedures he has had to put in place are significant.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.