Now that the COVID-19 virus has taken a foothold across the United States, provisions are being taken on federal, state, local and individual levels to help flatten the curve and keep people safe, often driven by the proactive initiatives of small and medium-sized businesses…. like hair salons!
In the wake of the spread of the Corona virus from China, where transmission seems to be falling slightly, to Europe and especially Italy, which is hoping to peak out this week if no other red zones should appear in the south, and now to the United States, where a national emergency has already been declared, action is already being taken on State and local levels where hot spots have been confirmed.
Usually the first step is to close schools, as children can often be asymptomatic vectors of the virus, followed by other gathering spots like restaurants, bars, and pubs. But what about other enterprises where staff work in closely and often in direct physical contact with their clientele and each other? More specifically, what about hairdressing and beauty salons, spas, and barbershops?
Where federal and state guidelines are neglecting to offer guidelines or regulations, many hairdressers are taking their health and safety and those of their clients into their own hands, by reducing traffic while increasing sanitation, and ultimately by closing their doors temporarily. Hairdressers have always been a category of courageous creatives with innovative solutions… and it will take more than a global pandemic to break their spirit or dampen their drive. Learn more about the best practices to prevent the spread.
Estetica asked four hairdressers in different states about how they were handling the crisis. Here are their answers.
KEEPING OPTIMISTIC AND TAKING A PRACTICAL APPROACH ▼
Charlie Price from Denver (Colorado) explains the approach he intends to take. “The first thing to say is that no one has answers – at the moment we simply have never been here before. I don’t know what I’m going to do either – I will however share my own thoughts, fears and how I personally plan to cope.”
“I am by nature a worrier. I am also a cynic and usually veer first toward the negative. Even though I am something of a pessimist, I am not devoid of humor. The reason I start here is that I think the most valuable thing we can do is keep our wits about us – we must keep as light of heart as possible. Trust me, for me this is no small feat. I think it is the key thought for my sanity and maybe yours as well. I was sleepless last night – going over and over things in my head in an effort to devise some strategy for how to approach the uncertainty of the coming months. I told myself – if I just think hard enough about every detail I’ll come up with something. I won’t say there was a moment of clarity – but here is where I’m at…”
“With regard to money – I’m not the worst at saving but I’m also not the best. I have managed not to incur huge amounts of debt for myself over the years. Simultaneously, I have also spent most of what I have made on shoots, hair shows fashion shows and marketing –all in an effort to create PR around “my brand”– perpetually investing in the future. I don’t regret this, but in doing so I have not amassed nearly the nest egg of many of my contemporaries. The thought of 2 or 3 months with no income terrifies me – I don’t exactly live paycheck to paycheck, but the current situation is not a pretty picture. My view here is that this is a time to simplify –curtail pumping coins into the “image machine”– become the frugal money manager my family always hoped I would be. Pay attention to every penny – even if we aren’t affluent, we may be surprised how much we spend on small frivolities.”
“As for actually doing business. I have a small advantage in that I don’t work in a big salon – so usually there are at most 4 people in my studio. If we are allowed on the street I can still service whomever I need to. I have stocked up on supplies without spending too much in case we are stuck in our homes for ages and I need that money to cover my monthly expenses. If this comes to pass my thoughts are to stay in contact with my small clientele by text, email or phone calls – now is the time to nurture relationships, both personal and business. We need each other to lean on now more than ever. It’s not a time to lose track of one another.”
“For my spirit I will endeavor to do all that I can to be responsible –for myself and for others– but also I promise to look after my soul. For an utter control freak like me –letting go is not something I relish or am good at– but maybe, just maybe I will have new, different and valuable perspectives on my life after this passes. I’m not trying to be mystical or “self- help-y” here – I’m not sure how getting the medicines I need to live will work out with insurance, for instance. Or how I will deal with the financial challenge – it is frightening. Dealing with the stress of things far beyond us is what we are facing. Moments of letting go may be all the respite we get.”
“Finally –laying there last night I thought to myself– there are so many people who have desperate situations much, much worse than me –before this crisis even began– and they are coping. The Italians are singing to each other from the prison of their balconies. I need to take inspiration from them – I need to be smart, pay attention and stay strong. If my grandparents could survive the Great Depression in the Kansas Dustbowl. If during World War II, while in the Air Force my grandfather could administer morphine to a fellow soldier as he was dying –both of them aboard the airplane he was a gunner on as it was being shot down only to jump out moments later to save himself–… I can, WE can… get through this.”
PANIC, CHAOS, AND THE VOICE OF REASON ▼
Nick Arrojo owns salons in the New York City area, one of the first to be hardest hit in the United States. Here are his observations. “Over the last two weeks the virus has started to cause panic here, slowly at first but now it is very real. For the past two weeks, we have been taking extra measures to ensure the safety of clients and stylists. All stations and salon surfaces (door knobs, bathrooms, etc.) were all cleaned multiple times a day and we created more space for each client by not having them sit at side-by-side stations. We have sanitizers throughout the salon for clients and stylists to use. The salon is cleaned by a professional housekeeping team at the end of each day.”
“However, things have escalated over the last few days. NYC has declared a state of emergency and all public schools, bars and restaurants have closed. However, currently there is no government order to close hair salons. Like many, we are very confused by this. Beauty professionals have so much contact with their clients! It seems to be irresponsible for governments to not set our provisions for beauty professionals. We think this is wrong! So we have decided to take our own action: it is with regret that we have taken the pro-active decision to close all our salon locations as of Tuesday, March 17 to Wednesday, April 1.”
“Whilst it is our plan to reopen April 1, we appreciate that it may be longer. We will be staying up to date with the latest news and expert advice, and this will govern our decisions going forwards. Currently, there is federal legislation being discussed to provide financial assistance to employees effected by COVID-19. We are hopeful that this legislation provides assistance to our employees, many of whom have young families.”
WEST COAST APPROACH ▼
Larisa Love owns a salon in Studio City, California. “Given the current situation, I have decided to not take anymore clients for the rest of the month. As for my artists, they are independent contractors and can choose on their own whether they want to take clients or not. I am taking extra sanitary precautions even though our salon is very sanitary per usual. We offer sanitizer and make sure every comb and brush is thrown into barbicide after each use.”
“As far as making extra income… I have am selling my $150 aprons for $50 to help artists get excited for when they get back on the floor. These sales also help me with my liquidity. I was also thinking of going Twitch, which is an app that people can tip while watching me live demonstrate a technique! Overall I think this is a great wake up call to have some savings for a rainy day, so you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. It’s time to re-evaluate how we can change our future for the best by setting new rules or getting extra education so we can raise our prices. It’s time to work smarter and not harder.“
Michael Haase is the owner of the Platinumblack salon in Westwood, Los Angeles. “During these hard times the increase in concern on health in general has escalated as expected, Platinumblack is no different than the rest of the world. Our commitment to a healthy environment is a daily occurrence, every day since the onset of Covid-19 we have ramped up the environment we work in.”
“Each morning I go in to work 2 hours early and sanitize and mop the entire salon floor, each station is wiped down wether it houses a staff member or not, all surfaces are cleaned 3 times daily and after each client. Our seating is 12′ apart from one another which adds to the quiet while we are working and tensions remain high. We have a no hand shake rule and continuously wipe common areas such as phones, door knobs, etc. As clients walk in we greet them with a sanitized wipe and offer robes which now hang in the salon instead of the dressing room which remains a confined area. The difficulty is listening to how scared everyone is not knowing the outcome and how much time is enough time to wait to be happy again. I feel the planet is sending us a message and it seems we are never really prepared enough, we are being scolded for not taking enough initiative to be prepared.”
“We have decided to close for one week to help aid the concerns of all while we take appointments remotely for the future. I feel it necessary to understand my salon is only 5 months old and yes this is a hardship. However, nothing takes the place of health and safety for families, we are continuously watching what else we can do to survive and increase awareness for all who enter Platinumblack – we do have a safe environment, but we continue to be optimistic and careful every single day.”
WAITING FOR THE INEVITABLE AND CONCERN FOR STAFF ▼
Estetica spoke to another major salon business based in the southeastern United States who preferred to remain anonymous. The CFO of this company confirmed reports that for the time being initiatives are being taken on either state or individual levels when it comes to closing salons, but that things are changing day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. Although there no specific directive for salon closings, they feel certain there will be one in the immediate future, either from state or federal level authorities.
“In the meantime,” he says, “we have been talking major precautions, heightening sanitation procedures and cutting per capita traffic in the salon. We have asked guests to assume responsibility for this also by cancelling or postponing their appointments if they are not well. But when the order to close comes through, which is most likely inevitable, we are hoping to deal with the situation with as much grace, finesse, and comfort as possible.”
In the meantime, most small businesses, like salons and barbershops, are keeping updated with forthcoming legislation being drafted as we write this article. A national emergency has already been declared, but the next step for freeing up other drastic funds and measures would be declaring a national disaster, which would make relief legislation (like payroll tax laws), subsidies, and access to low- or no-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses available to help overcome the crisis and get reboot the economy.
“After sixty years and three generations in this business, we have staff members who are like family to us, so our major concern is their well-being,” he shared. “This is also why we are hoping for federal interventions.”
As for nearly all business nowadays, their communications and marketing takes place mostly online, through websites, social media and emails (especially for contacting staff). However, the latest of their regularly organized, intensive, live-training courses that was about to take place had to be cancelled due to travel difficulties and restrictions already in place. They are hoping to continue with some online training videos on YouTube.
For all the above reasons, he recommends that salon owners keep updated with the Small Business Administration (https://www.sba.gov/) and other government websites to better understand what relief they might be eligible for.