By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The reopening of the California economy was greeted with joy and a sigh of relief from small businesses in San Jose who survived the shutdowns.

KPIX 5 reporter Len Ramirez revisited some of the small businesses he covered during the worst of the pandemic to find out how they made it through.

For the staff at Tranquility Day Spa and Hair Salon in San Jose, the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday was like a victory lap.

“We’re super, super, super happy,” said salon owner Lieu Shultz.

Tranquility Day Spa in San Jose during the state's full reopening, June 15, 2021. (CBS)

Tranquility Day Spa in San Jose during the state’s full reopening, June 15, 2021. (CBS)

Fifteen months ago, Shultz was just trying to keep her business alive. She had a garage full of PPE, and then worked outside all summer.

On Tuesday, Lieu was celebrating her shop’s survival with a golf getaway with her husband to Austin.

“Last year was terrible, but now we can see something much, much better,” Shultz told KPIX 5.

Shultz said staff pushed through several frustrating on-again, off-again shutdowns by the state and county. her landlord gave her a break on rent.

But one worker remembers how hard 2020 was.

“The smoke, the fires, can you believe it? That whole year. It was horrible,” said hair stylist Nilda Sit.

KPIX 5 also revisited Ed Ramsay who owns the Drying Shed restaurant nearby. Ramsay’s key to survival was loyal customers ordering to-go.

He’s now seeing banquet business come back better than ever.

“It’s incredibly busy. A lot of folks are having memorial services for loved ones they lost during the pandemic, and also birthday parties, retirements,” Ramsay said.

Many businesses did not survive, including mom and pops, chain restaurants and even the landmark Fairmont Hotel had to close.

Standalone bars had it especially hard, but as they too reopen for indoor service, one bartender gave a prediction on what his next day of work would be like.

“Total madness.  Definitely a crowd of people will be coming out and with that freedom of no mask. I don’t know, we’ll see!” said Tody Guillen, who tends bar at a downtown San Jose establishment called Five Points Bar.