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Customers go back to salons, barbers for personal care

Hair cuts. Massages. Tattoos. Pedicures. Manicures. These were just some of the luxuries lost as businesses faced mandatory shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet as states began to reopen last month, most areas saw the resurgence of these businesses as longtime customers clamored to receive their self-care services.

Ogden Newspapers spoke with business owners in 14 states to gauge how the reopening process has been as they work around masks, sanitize massage tables and keep their shops as clean — and as socially distanced — as possible. The following is what we found.

OHIO

In Norwalk, Bad Habits Barbershop was in full swing again once the state reopened. Norwalk is the seat for Huron County, one of the seven counties Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week were hardest hit by COVID-19.

Owner Mitch Brewer said the new order mandating masks to be worn in public has hurt his business, as no beards can be cut if masks can’t come off.

While Brewer himself won’t have to wear a mask constantly due to his asthma, masks are now to be worn inside public spaces until the county’s outbreaks lessen.

Brewer opened Bad Habits in September and because he’s self-employed, he was denied unemployment.

“We can’t cut beards, (can’t do) the hot lather; we can’t do anything like that,” Brewer said. “I’ve already had multiple clients cancel with me because of that reason.”

He said his shop has received a lot of backlash from community members who disagree with the mandate.

“Different members of the community are acting like this is our rule, but in reality, it’s not — we are just being forced to abide by it,” he said. “My biggest worry is if I allow my barbers to be comfortable and cut how they want without a mask, I have to worry about the state board coming and shutting me down.”

Brewer went on to explain that his barber chairs are sanitized after every client. Also included in his shop’s precautions are barbers wearing gloves and the shop having a rotation to clean doorknobs and light switches. No one is allowed to wait inside the shop, and only one customer is allowed in at a time.

“You have to wait in your vehicle or out on the porch and you have to wait for us to call or text you and say it’s your turn to come in,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can to keep our people safe.”

Brewer said he worries that the mask mandate will be problematic as the summer goes on.

“I don’t think it should be mandated for every soul to have to wear it, not by any means, especially in this heat,” he said. “There’s numerous things said by doctors recently that you should not wear a mask in the humidity. People are going to be getting heatstroke.”

In Salem, Beauty on Broadway being closed was “a very lonely time,” owner Shelby Shambabh said.

“To go away from our clients and our team, that was a rough deal for all of us,” she said.

One of the struggles she faced with reopening her salon was having to do so on such short notice.

“Our salon is designed a certain way and now we had to rearrange all that, things had to be reconstructed and there was no help for that,” she said. “They only gave us six days to get ready. As a team, we went out and shopped. It was tough. You hadn’t worked for two months and have to spend all this money on rearranging, cleaning supplies, rerouting electrical. It was not fun.”

While Shambabh owns Beauty on Broadway, the other cosmetologists rent their space in her shop.

“As soon as we shut down, I stopped their rent,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep at night knowing they were struggling to pay me. Being the owner and having so many faces looking at me, asking what we were going to do, it was hard.”

She said the salon’s cleaning routine had always been very regimented before the COVID-19 outbreak, but wearing masks is new and hairdressers can only see one client at a time.

“Only seeing one customer at a time lessened our income, and we weren’t able to do our business the way we normally do,” Shambabh said. “We had to make people listen to us if they came in without a mask. Being an authority, that changed our environment a little bit. Normally, it’s very friendly and open.”

For now, the masks remain on staff and they see one client at a time. Shambabh said as the weeks have gone on, people are getting more comfortable with the regulations in place and they seem less anxious about coming in.

She said when Beauty on Broadway reopened, she saw an increase of new clients and business was busier than ever.

“We work because we love what we do,” she said. “Work is fun and we enjoy our job. To be away from all that and to come back makes us love it more. I’m not saying I’m happy we closed, but it makes you love your job that much more. We’re back doing what we love, even if we just have to do it a little differently.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Salons in Pennsylvania have been open for a few weeks now. Jodi Hlastala, the owner of Studio 412 in Uniontown, said it’s been “a pretty easy transition.”

“The first four weeks, it was extremely busy to try to get our clients in,” she said. “We have had to turn a lot of new people away because we wanted to give priority to our clients.”

With three stylists and one nail technician, they had to move their stations apart a little bit further to ensure social distancing. Everyone has to wear masks and the nail technician keeps plexiglass between her and her client.

“She cleans it between each client,” Hlastala said. “It hasn’t been bad having masks. Even without the virus, people are going to cough or sneeze, and it’s just nice to have the mask there.”

They can’t take walk-ins anymore, as everything must be by appointment. Also, they can only service one client at a time, but Hlastala said that gives them more time to disinfect everything and reconnect with their clients.

“We’ve just been following all the guidelines,” she said. “We feel pretty safe. We’re pretty close to our clients, and I haven’t heard of any of ours having coronavirus.”

news@tribtoday.com

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