After being closed for more than two months, many hair salons, barbershops and dog groomers in the United States reopened on May 25 despite the Memorial Day holiday. Though they are now subject to strict social distancing guidelines that will cause a backlog of customers, businesses owners who reopened said they were glad to be able to serve their customers again.
At Flip Hair Salon in Milton, Massachusetts, owner Steven Pierce said the salon is still figuring out how to make things run smoothly with the new regulations. When customers come, they must wait outside until the stylist is ready. Then when they come in, they must have their temperature taken and wear a mask.
“It’s just a whole learning experience right now, ” Pierce said. “It’s the first day back and we’re trying to fall into place.”
When the customers leave, the stylists, who also wear masks, switch smocks and spray down all the surfaces. Pierce said doing this in front of the customers helps them feel at ease.
“Everything’s visible to the client so that they feel comfortable knowing we’re doing everything we can, ” he said.
Pierce said they’re taking about half the number of clients they normally would in a day. They can only service one customer at a time, about one an hour, so each stylist is only seeing about eight clients a day.
But that doesn’t mean the salon isn’t busy. When Governor Charlie Baker announced salons could reopen last week, Pierce said he was bombarded with calls to schedule appointments. He’s now booked until the end of this month, and opened on May 25 despite the holiday to take his male clients just so he could get them out of the way.
“There’s a bit of nervousness there in reopening, ” Pierce said. “It’s been, what, 10,12 weeks now? I was just happy to remember how to cut hair!”
In rough shape
Pet groomers were also among the few businesses allowed to reopen last Monday. Many, like The Dog’s Den in Pembroke, only opened for dog daycare services due to the holiday. But others, like The Weymouth Dog Shop, were eager to start attending to dogs they hadn’t seen in weeks. Tom Morse, manager of the grooming and pet supplies shop, said he normally sees 200 dogs a week, so there has been a big back-up.
“I’m more concerned with our regular customers, ” he said. “Their dogs haven’t been groomed for two months. Some of them are used to coming in every month, so they’re overgrown. They’re in rough shape.”
Morse said the adjustment to the new guidelines hasn’t been too much of a shift for the shop. They have been open for pet supplies throughout, so they had already adjusted to wearing masks and gloves and conducting hourly sanitation. Now, they just have to make sure to limit the amount of people inside, enforce strict appointment scheduling and try to get the dogs in and out as quickly as possible.
“We try to keep it nice and safe and clean in here anyways, so it’s not a huge change, ” he said.
Morse said he thinks the shop probably could have opened safely earlier, which might have prevented the hundreds of phone calls a day he received last week after the governor announced groomers could reopen. He’s now booked until the end of the month, only able to take about half the dogs he normally would, and he feels bad for having to make some customers wait even longer.
A smoother transition
Barbershops were also allowed to reopen last Monday, and though Alda Barbershop in Quincy is only taking appointments, all the appointments are scheduled the day of service through their app, so customers who want to be seen right away still have a shot.
Tarek Alda, co-owner of the shop, said they started using the app about a year ago and it’s helped make the transition to reopening smoother. He’s hoping to still see as many customers as he would normally.
Still, the barbershop has had to make some changes. Using the checklist from the commonwealth, they disinfect after every customer, give customers and barbers disposable aprons, make all the barbers and customers wear masks, have all the barbers wear goggles, space their chairs 2.7m (9ft) apart and have every customer wait outside until they’re ready.
“The new normal – we’ve been doing that for almost a year now, ” Alda said. “The only thing different since two months ago is just the mask and the goggles.”
Alda said he and his staff are glad the state guidelines are there to keep both staff and customers safe, especially because he and other barbers have children at home to whom they could spread the virus.
Though Alda said he and his staff could not wait to get back to work after two months, he said safety is most important. He said he can only hope all the other barbers in the state follow the new guidelines for reopening, as not doing so could have consequences for everyone.
“One mistake, and we all end up closing because of one guy at one barbershop, ” he said. – Tribune News Service/The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.)/Susannah Sudborough