Hair stylists welcome back their clients
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
Mounds of hair piled up on the floors of hair salons and barber shops throughout the area as these businesses re-opened May 11 after being closed for seven weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katie Jones, who owns Hair Jazz in Marengo, said when she closed her shop March 21 in response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home directive, “it was scary; that’s my only income.”
Jones agreed with the decision to close most businesses to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Jeff Blevins, owner of Dagwood’s and Blondie’s, also in Marengo, thinks it went too far.
“I feel our civil rights were violated,” he said. “I feel we had no voice or choice whether we stayed open or closed.”
The abrupt, lengthy time off created a financial hardship for many, especially the self-employed. While unemployment was expanded to include those workers in late April, navigating the overloaded system was difficult.
Patty Reyling of The Finishing Touch salon in English did file for unemployment, finally receiving payment shortly before she resumed work. But, there was a hitch. Filing jointly with her husband, she said they were told they needed to repay $1,000 because they had been overpaid.
“I’m waiting to use it,” she said. “We’ll count it as a blessing if we get anything.”
Blevins has yet to receive any unemployment; Jones said she received a check May 4.
“Financially, it has hurt us all,” said Blevins. “Unemployment hasn’t been this bad since the Great Depression.”
Renee Manship made a major change, at least in part due to the virus. She owned Renee’s Family Haircare in Marengo for 22 years and decided on March 28 to close it permanently.
She said there were other factors “but the uncertainty of what the virus would bring and not knowing how long we would have to be closed was the final straw.”
Manship now works with Blevins at his shop.
“I have a strong faith in God, and He is ultimately in control,” she said. “I’m just thankful to get through it and be back to work.”
All the stylists were eager to get back to wielding scissors, clippers and the other tools of their trade.
Natalie Bullington, who works with Reyling at The Finishing Touch, said clients were quick to start calling once it was announced salons could re-open.
“The minute the governor said we could, the phone was ringing, people were on Facebook,” she said. “Everything was blowing up within 10 minutes.”
Manship said, “They were very excited. Most of my clients were staying in home, either with children or health issues.”
Jones, who has implemented stricter safety standards than those recommended in Indiana, said, “Customers did not care what we asked them to do. They were so thankful to come in. They were definitely excited.”
Clients will have a different experience when they visit a salon, at least for awhile.
The waiting room chatter has disappeared as only one client per stylist is allowed in the shop at a time, by appointment only. One parent may accompany a child.
Masks are required for stylists and recommended for clients.
Reyling and Bullington have chosen to alternate days, with only one working at a time to further lessen the risk of exposure. They are working longer hours to accommodate more clients.
There is a 15- to 20-minute waiting period between clients to allow stylists time to sanitize surfaces and for the cleaners to kill any germs. Clients are asked to wait outside until being directed to come inside for their appointment.
“Most people don’t know how strict sanitation rules are anyway,” said Reyling. “They’ve always been strict; everything has to be cleaned with chemicals.”
Salons now have the expense of purchasing larger amounts of cleaners than they previously used and the challenge of trying to find them.
“There wasn’t any hand sanitizer,” said Reyling. “I finally found some through a manufacturer who got it from a distillery that was manufacturing it. It was $60, but you have to have it.”
Jones and her sister-in-law, Kristie Jones, the other stylist at Hair Jazz, have chosen to implement more strict guidelines.
“We’re taking every precaution we can to keep clients and our families safe,” said Katie Jones. “We’re going above Indiana’s guidelines, which weren’t as strict as other states.”
She said clients at Hair Jazz have their temperature checked at the door and must wear a mask. In addition to wearing masks, both stylists are also changing their smocks between clients and are using a new cape for each client. The stylists are also wearing gloves.
In addition, Hair Jazz clients are asked to complete a questionnaire about their health and must provide their name and contact information.
“In case something happened, we would have a way of contacting them,” said Katie Jones.
Stylists have been directed to wear a mask until July 3. Blevins is doing so but doesn’t agree with the guideline, calling it “a bit steep.” He believes not requiring masks in all businesses illustrates “a true double standard.”
All the stylists said their clients were more than ready to get back in the chair. They are working long hours to accommodate them.
Scheduling is a challenge, said Reyling, adding the days of dropping in for a quick cut are over, at least for now. Bullington said she is booked through the middle of June.
Jones believes the “new normal” will continue in some form after the mandates are lifted July 3.
“The future in cosmetology is going to be different than the last 20 years,” she said. “I see a lot of what we’re doing right now we may have to do for the future.”
Despite the masks, the extensive cleaning and the wait time between clients, Reyling said the importance of hair stylists in their clients’ lives will never change. It goes far beyond a hair cut, she said.
“We are there for people for graduation, the first day of school, weddings, funerals, divorces. You name it and we are there. It is called hair therapy for a reason,” she said. “Hair is the last thing this chair is about. We’re sharing lives. This is our extended family.”