By Da Lin

ALBANY (KPIX) — Two days from California’s COVID reopening and there’s a sense of progress and relief among the businesses in Albany’s Solano Avenue business district.

“This is our first … return from pandemic pop-up, so it’s really nice to see everyone come back out,” said Cory Shigeta with Always Aloha Shave Ice.

There was a long line for the Hawaiian-style shaved ice, amounting to a 45-minute wait for the pop-up store on Solano Avenue.

“It’s great! (The flavor is) strawberry and lychee,” said Berkeley resident Janice Kosel.

The long line reflected people’s comfort level with opening up and socializing.

“It’s a sign of progress. Yes, there’s more people coming out,” said American Canyon resident Grace Mejia.

Shigeta said that, as California reopens, they also plan to do more pop-ups.

“It is a solid sign of things getting back to normal,” Shigeta said.

“I’m really excited about the full reopening. We can seat more people,” said Praveena Shrestha, a co-owner at the Solano Junction restaurant.

They just re-launched their dinner service this weekend to coincide with the June 15 reopening.

“We were barely surviving, it was hard for us to survive and now business is picking up,” said Lila Neupane, a chef and co-owner of Solano Junction.

“I would definitely want to keep the outdoor seating because some people are still health conscious, they don’t want to sit inside,” said Shrestha.

From food to shoes to books, small businesses along the Solano Avenue corridor said customers are returning to their stores.

“On the weekends, the last couple of weeks, I would say (foot traffic is) at 90 percent of the usual customer flow. Some days, even beyond that, we’re seeing 110, 120 percent,” said Candy Lacayo, a manager at Shoes on Solano.

“We’re doing pretty well in terms of getting close to what we were before the pandemic,” said Pegasus Fine Books store manager Marjorie Darraugh.

And, as California reopens, many businesses hope they’ll go from surviving to thriving.

“We’re just thankful to still be standing though these last 15 months, honestly,” Lacayo said.