Heads, and the stylists who love them, return to life

Personal style Hair stylists in the tristate area have spent the quarantine learning how to conquer the stopgap measures and instant fixes their clients were resorting to during their long separation -- and how to sanitize just about everything.

Newton /
23 Jun 2020 | 04:47

Since Tristate salons and barbershops were mandated to shut down in March, many have been forced to apply for loans or dip into their savings. All have had to wait, patiently, for the green light to re-open. This week, beauty and barber establishments got the go-ahead to resume clipping and coloring, and it was a huge relief both for the owners and their customers.

Mancuso Salon & Spa in Sparta, N.J., and owner Jacque Cox-Rudy said they’ve been shut down since March 16. The employer will bring back all 45 of her staff members and has protocols in place.

“We will be working at 50% capacity, consent forms will need to be signed, and masks will be worn by employees and clients,” she said. “There will be temperature checks for employee and clients.”

At Mancuso, each stylist re-booked their own clients for canceled appointments.

“We then worked through a list of new requests to try to accommodate everyone as quickly as possible,” Cox-Rudy said.

Mancuso Salon was fortunate to receive Payroll Protection Program (PPP) funds that helped sustain the business. “We all took a hit in every financial aspect, but we are all healthy and have a business to return to, so we are grateful,” Cox-Rudy said.

Box color forgiven

His-n-Hair in Newton, N.J., closed down on March 19 and also received some relief from being granted a PPP loan. “That helped to pay for part of the rent but not for three months,” said owner Dawn Billing. “But you can’t make up being closed for a quarter of the year.”

Now that His-n-Hair has re-opened, the salon is taking all the protocols required by the state and NJ State Cosmetology Board. “Everyone must wear masks, we will be practicing social distancing, we also will be doing extra sanitation measures in between each guest,” Billing said. “It will definitely be different inside our salon for awhile. The atmosphere will not feel as warm and comfortable as my guests are accustomed to.”

All services are available, with extra protection during waxing, she said. “I personally feel that we really did not need to be closed down this long. In order to get our state license we had to learn all about sterilization and sanitation procedures so our industry knows how to sanitize and make sure things are clean and safe.”

Learning during downtime

Shear Dimensions, in West Milford, N.J., shut down on March 17, two days earlier than the governor’s mandate. “We did not feel confident that we could guarantee client or staff safety until we knew more about the virus,” said Sarah Schweighardt, who co-owns the salon with Lois Douma. “Thankfully we made a decision years ago to pay our staff 100% on the books so they were all eligible for unemployment. That was our first concern.”

The co-owners took advantage of the downtime, during which they had to be closed to redecorate the salon. “We cleaned out every inch of our space including new chairs so our staff and clients would have a clean lovely space to come back to,” Schweighardt said. “We used savings to cover our continuing expenses, and eventually took out a loan to continue to cover expenses.”

While closed, all staff, including receptionists and owners, became Barbicide-certified. “This means we learned about the best disinfection and sanitation practices for our industry,” she said. “We then all took a Covid-19 specific certification class so that we would know how to deal with the challenge of keeping clients and staff protected.”

Shear Dimensions installed UV air purifiers to eliminate mold, viruses, bacteria, and a host of other undesirable things from the air.

“We also purchased a UV cleaning bag so we can clean any cash or checks received,” Schweighardt said. “We opened a Paypal account so that we can offer contact free payment. Many of our protocols for all of the time we have been in business serve us in times like these. We have always washed all towels and capes between use and continue to do that.”

Shear Dimensions is booking only one client per staff member at a time and have expanded hours to accommodate clients eager to get their hair done. “If our clients used box color – all is forgiven,” Schweighardt said. “We still love them and understand how difficult this time has been. We are booking longer appointments for clients who succumbed to the lure of the false promises of the instant fix. Some products are not permanent and can be removed with various professional treatments that we have on hand. Some of our clients may have buried custom foiled color with a monochromatic box of dark brown color, which has robbed them of their dimensional look that they love. ‘Where are my foils?’ is a question we have heard a few times since the shut down.”

‘Better than before’

In Milford, Pa., Jennifer Podrazil has owned Second Street Salon for 21 years. The salon shut its doors on April 1 and re-opened on June 22. “Financially it’s been a real hardship,” she said, with rent and bills still due with no income, “realizing it was going to cost me thousands to purchase all the new PPE equipment, not to mention going back we can only take half the clients we did before. So now we have to work twice as hard to make less money.”

Podrazil even contemplated whether or not she should re-open. “It was a hard decision if I wanted to come back and try and recover,” she said. “After months of watching webinars and educating myself I have decided to come back even better than before. With a small increase to all our services and lot of planning, I was able to give each hairstylist and nail tech their own room and create a safe environment for our clients and staff.”

So far, box coloring hasn’t been an issue, Podrazil said, although she’s anticipating some “challenges” ahead in this vein. “Salons now have new guidelines we need to follow and we are taking it seriously,” she said. “I have trained my staff on all the new protocols. I have updated the salon and removed anything that wasn’t necessary and replaced the floors. Everything we use is either disposable or disinfected. All our instruments are put in a sealed pouch after being sterilized. I have put up shields where it was necessary and also put in touchless faucets and towel dispensers throughout the salon. We will only take one client at a time, and clients wait outside until we are ready for them.”

‘Blessed to be open’

Barbershops were hit hard by the shut down as well. “PPP helped out some, but not much,” said Karen Bell, owner of John’s Barbershop with locations in Branchville and Newton, N.J. “We’re just blessed to be open,” she said. “Our customers are so dedicated. I was overwhelmed with the calls from people just calling to check on us and leaving such nice messages.”

John’s has been a walk-in barbershop since its inception several decades ago. Given the circumstances, that’s had to change and Bell now takes appointments. “We’re following all of the necessary protocols and making sure everything is disinfected,” she said.

As to the haircuts folks may have given themselves or had others give to them during quarantine, Bell said in her shop, she hasn’t seen anything terrible. “Our customers are just delighted to be able to come back in,” Bell said.

Headquarters Cut and Shave Barbershop, in Milford, Pa., is limiting foot traffic and requiring customers to call from the parking lot before they are let in to ensure proper spacing. “People are being very cooperative and are happy to see us,” said barber/stylist Jordan Hughes.

As to self-administered haircuts during the quarantine, she said, “We haven’t seen anything crazy yet, but I’m sure those are on their way. I’m thinking people who messed up are waiting a bit to show their faces.”

“We’re so glad to have people back,” she said.

“If our clients used box color – all if forgiven. We still love them and understand how difficult this time has been.” --Sarah Schweighardt, Shear Dimensions, West Milford, N.J.