From mid-March to mid-May, the novel coronavirus kept the doors of local barber shops and salons closed. Since the state began loosening restrictions, businesses have begun exploring how to safely welcome back customers. Local barbers and stylists are adjusting to life back at work with a twist.
In addition to the regular duties of running their businesses, barbers and stylists now have to adjust to regularly cleaning all their supplies, maintaining as much social distance as possible and keeping customers and employees safe.
Most shops reopened on May 9 as soon as they were allowed to do so by the state. Courtney Michelle, owner of CocoMichelle Salon and Spa, waited until May 14 so she could buy cleaning supplies and do a test run giving hair colors and massages on her front porch. The two months before opening day were tough, she said. Her only income came from skin care products she decided to sell online.
“It helped, but it didn’t come close to adding up to the service numbers that I had before,” Michelle said. “It’s still a little on the low side. I think a lot of people are nervous to come in. Business is not what it was before.”
Services like massages, hair treatments and waxes make up 80% to 85% of Michelle’s business, she said. So when she wasn’t able to offer those services, she had to get creative. She added an online store to her website where people can buy skin and hair products, and created gift certificates people can use for future services. This week is CocoMichelle’s 15th anniversary, and in lieu of the traditional anniversary party, all products are 15% to 75% off and can be purchased online.
Now that the salon is open again, customers have the option to request their service be done outside on the front porch to minimize contact with other people. In the winter, Michelle plans to install heaters on her porch to keep customers warm while they wait. Customers have to wear masks and Michelle and her employees wear masks and face shields during services. CocoMichelle’s slogan is “beauty in progress,” which Michelle said is applicable now more than ever.
“We try to be innovative,” she said. “Whenever something happens, we try to be flexible and nimble.”
Dan Martin, owner of Dan’s Place Barbershop, said his business also is slowly regaining its momentum. After reopening on May 9, the state until recently prevented barbers from offering shaves and facial services. Now Martin’s business is almost back to normal, he said, with the exception of requiring face masks on customers and employees, social distancing and revamped cleaning and sanitizing. Martin buys extra cases of face masks to give out to customers who forget to bring their own, and he’s lucky that he hasn’t yet had an issue with a customer refusing to wear a mask, he said.
“Even if they do have an issue, they’ll wear it for a haircut,” Martin said. “Without a doubt, you can tell that people are still scared. Many of my new customers are seeking me out because I’m a single person, so there’s less exposure.”
Brandi Jaye, owner of Studio Boom, said she’s had to refuse service to people who refused to wear a mask during their haircuts. She said the salon is just starting to have issues since it’s easy to walk into a store like Walmart or Target without a mask on, so people are no longer used to wearing masks wherever they go.
“When we’re in here, it feels like we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but not out there,” Jaye said. “People don’t understand that we’re under a totally different set of rules than Target.”
Studio Boom has been busy every day, Jaye said, but she worries business will get slow again if the state goes back to stay-at-home restrictions. Studio Boom is operating at 50% capacity, with eight stylists and eight customers inside at a time. Jaye said the salon is fortunate to have a large enough space to allow that many people inside and still be socially distanced.
People have been talking about wanting haircuts for a few months now since the state was under stay-at-home orders, and Martin thinks it’s because people want to feel good again after the fear and anxiety of being locked at home, he said.
“We all got woolly and primitive,” he said. “Haircuts make people feel good and clean so they can go back to work. Also since people’s faces are hidden away, the only way they can show their pride in themselves is their haircuts.”