The Sam Bell Maxey House may see some new life in the coming days. The stately historic home on Church Street closed its doors following Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to shut down nonessential businesses, leaving the popular tourist destination without any visitors.
That may change Friday as Abbott is allowing businesses to reopen at 25% capacity in a move to reopen the Texas economy while upholding social distancing practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re looking forward to being open for our visitors to come see and learn about the site again and see everything we have in the house and hear the stories we have to tell,” site manager Kaitlin Ammon said.
Ammon said safety will be a priority for visitors at the Maxey House, which is part of the Historic Sites Division of the Texas Historical Commission, noting the commission is drafting general safety criteria for sites to follow.
“(The commission is) working on developing a full list of protocols and guidelines for both visitor and staff safety, and it’s going to include rigorous cleaning and disinfecting,” Ammon said.
The option to reopen has also thrown local restaurants a lifeline. According to owner B.A. Sessums, Jaxx Burgers in downtown Paris has seen about an 85% drop in business since it was forced to close its dining room and move exclusively to takeout orders. The ability to reopen may change all of that.
“It’s been so bad the last 40 days because we don’t have a drive-thru window or parking lot or anything,” Sessums said.
Due to the precipitous drop in revenue, Jaxx has been operating with a skeleton crew. It has only been able to keep about one-third of its employees because of lost income, but Sessums hopes that by reopening, even at only 25% capacity, they may soon be able to return to something akin to business usual.
Sessums said especially in the first few weeks he knows there may be customers who are still apprehensive about dining out in public, so he and his staff will be paying close attention to enhanced safety protocols such as not keeping condiments on tables and frequently sanitizing surfaces.
“We’ll still be offering to-go orders so if someone does not feel safe coming in, then they can still get a to-go order,” Sessums said. “But, I mean, for people that are not as vulnerable to the virus and really want to get out, hopefully they’ll come out and we can do business as normal.”
Both Ammon and Sessums have hopes that with residents being able to get out and patronize businesses, the Paris community will be able to regain some sense of normalcy.
“Hopefully we can all get back to normal life in the next month or so,” Sessums said. “Hopefully we can all learn from this.”