Hair salons move with caution as they start to reopen doors to customers
Area hair salons and barbershops are beginning to offer their services again to customers after being closed down since March 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While salon owners and their employees are glad about being able to return to work, there is also a great deal of caution and uncertainty surrounding the reopening of their businesses as they try to make decisions on how to still operate safely.
A few local hair salons have already restarted operations — within days of the “Safer at Home” order being overturned in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court — with the rest sharing plans of reopening in a staggered fashion over the next few weeks. Among those already open are Loyal salons Hair We Are and Carrousel Hair Salon, which opened late last week, and Ria’s Studio 3 in Greenwood and Dave’s Barbershop in Granton, which opened on May 19. Those looking for a haircut in Spencer will have to wait just a little bit longer for their salons to open, with Kathi & Company Hair Salon and Amie’s Cut Loose both opening back up on May 26.
“I’m remaining closed until I know for sure,” said Kathi Hansen of Kathi & Company Hair Salon. “I want to see what their (the state’s) plan is. The government said the 26th, me as a salon owner, it’s always been a big deal to follow health and sanitation guidelines.”
“We reopened on Thursday (May 14),” said Tina Schmidt of Hair We Are. “We have started calling back clients that we had to cancel on. I think we had 150 people we had to reschedule. We’re going to be doing those (the cancelled appointments) for this first week, next week and maybe into the first week of June.”
Because of their closures, the salons are all experiencing a backlog of clients from the past eight weeks who had appointments scheduled during the “Safer at Home” order. As they reopen, they said those clients will be the first served even as other customers are calling to set up their own appointments.
“Now that we’re open, the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Marie Brecht of Ria’s Studio 3. “That’s a good feeling. People are confident to be out.”
“I’m trying to call all of my customers, make up for nine weeks of closing,” said Amie Kelnhofer of Amie’s Cut Loose. “I’m officially going to open on the 26th, the same day that they told us we could reopen (in the “Safer at Home” order). I actually have people scheduled that day. I’m taking a couple customers beforehand as a soft opening, see how everything’s going to run with sanitizing everything in-between customers.”
Hair cuts and other salon treatments are quickly becoming something in high demand now that they are reopening their doors. This is a good thing, the salon owners said, as it shows them that there won’t be a slow opening as some feared, and might allow them to recover some of the revenue they lost by being closed.
“We totally lost out on all the prom,” said Brecht on the effect the closing had on their business in Greenwood. “We also have tanning available, but people didn’t get to do their winter vacations, prepare for summer, get their summer tan on. To be able to come back and come back strong will hopefully help us make up some of what we lost.”
“I was very busy before the state shut us down,” said Kelnhofer. “I’m hoping to recoup what I lost, but I will never really recoup what I lost in income.”
The lost income over the eight week span had a big impact on each of the hair salons. As bills still needed to be paid, most were left waiting and wondering if they would be able to make it through to the May 26 date. Through different strategies, they were all able to pull through.
“I had patients scheduled the next day (when the order was put in place), I couldn’t take them,” said Carol Hubing of Carrousel Hair Salon. “If I took them in I could have lost my beautician’s license, I could have lost the beauty shop. I live in the back of the shop, I wouldn’t have had a home to go to. I still had to pay the light bill, the electric bill. It was still cold in March. I still have to have heat, can’t go without that. I set thermostats down as low as they could go.”
“The community support really helped us,” said Schmidt. At Hair We Are, she said the business was able to make it through by selling gift certificates and offering curbside pickup of certain hair products.
“We were fortunate though that there were customers that were buying gift certificates to use in the future so that helped us through to pay our bills,” she said. “Curbside, it helped us obviously financially, it just allowed us to see our people again and get products sent to them.”
“Well, it was very trying,” said Brecht. “A lot of people didn’t understand … it’s very stressful, not working, going week by week. Not knowing if things would change or be different. In case we would open up, we still kept our appointments on week by week. Every Monday I was calling people to have to reschedule, trying to decide if we should do two weeks or a month.”
“Restaurants were able to at least offer curbside pickup,” added Kelnhofer on her experience. “There were no curbside haircuts or hair colors. I wasn’t able to bring in that revenue. Lucky for me, I’m a saver, that was good for me as I had a cushion that was able to help me through this.”
Now that the salons are reopening, each is having to set up their own policies on how to handle customer safety. Heavy sanitation, personal protective equipment and limits on the amount of people in the salon at a given time are common policies that are being set up and are likely to remain in place for quite some time.
“Right now, we’re appointment only,” said Schmidt. “We’re only allowing so many people in. Using extra cleaning and sanitation between customers, any place that is touched by a customer we clean.”
“I think the thing is to use a mask, your people use a mask,” said Hubing. “Sanitation is number one.”
“They wait in their car until we come out and get them,” said Brecht on their policy. “The client walks through the door and either sanitizes or washes their hands, we have sanitation stations set up for them right when they walk in … As staff, we will be wearing face masks and shields, its up to the client if they want to wear a mask. Once the client leaves, we will use our disinfectant spray to clean down every surface, we have scheduled extra time between appointments to allow the disinfectants to sit for 10 minutes. It’s to help keep the clients and the staff safe and limit exposure.”
Such caution in their work, they said, is extremely important as they face uncertainty on how the COVID-19 virus will spread now that everyone is out and about. As they work face to face with clients, they said there is a risk of infection that other businesses may not feel as acutely, but like all businesses, they need to get back to work.
“All I can say is that I pray it’s the right move,” said Hubing. “I feel sorry for these people who haven’t gotten their haircuts. We don’t know how long this will last, they may shut us down again.”
“I think we definitely need to be cautious, but it will be nice to be able to have income again,” said Kelnhofer. “I will definitely take precautions, unfortunately we can’t stay home until this is all over. People still need to make money, feed their families, et cetera, et cetera. I feel the state may have jumped the gun a little bit by pushing everything open a few weeks early, everything is now null and void. I felt more comfortable with the specific start date of the 26th.”
“I view it as both,” added Brecht. “It’s a positive change, but we need to approach this cautiously. As contagious as this is, they need to know it’s safe to go into their local business. We are putting their health and safety first.”
The hair salons of our area will be continually updating their respective Facebook pages to let their customers know about policy changes and other information regarding the operations of their business.
A playful sign at Dave’s Barbershop in Granton suggests an optional service for those waiting for a styling during the coronavirus pandemic.