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Friday
October 30th, 2020

annalynn salonAnnalynn Kirkhart works on a head of hair at Annalynn’s Salon shortly after its opening in Turpin, Okla, two years ago. Like some other businesses, salons are slowly starting to open following the COVID-19 pandemic. Kirkhart now requires masks be worn by her staff and her clients. L&T file photo/Robert PierceELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

States are slowly starting to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, and in many places, the local salon is an important part of the community. 

Along with entertainment and other recreation and hospitality, one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic has been the salon industry.

“In the U.S., the salon and spa industry boasted more than 1.2 million businesses bringing in more than $57 billion in sales, according to a 2019 Professional Beauty Association (PBA) report,” an article from Allure noted. “Behindthechair.com, an organization with millions of followers that supports hairdressers with events and education, has been surveying thousands of its members over the last few weeks to get a sense of just how dire it is. About 72 percent of hair salon workers polled said they either live paycheck-to-paycheck or have only about a month’s worth of cash reserves to live on. About 23 percent reported having no health insurance. Many salons laid off their workers quickly after the shutdowns, allowing them to apply for unemployment benefits. Lots of salons, unlike the handful of large companies that can afford to, just aren’t flush enough to continue to pay salaries. But for the many manicurists, stylists, braiders, colorists, and barbers who are classified as independent contractors, things are even trickier. Prior to the passing of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion bill that will offer relief to laid-off workers, freelance and independent contractors weren’t typically eligible for unemployment benefits.”

Such effects were also seen with salons in Liberal, who reported feeling surprised and somewhat upset at the announcement of Gov. Laura Kelly’s original stay-at-home order in march, which closed salons. 

“I was a little upset because I had to wonder about what I would do to keep helping support my family,” Lash Lounge Owner Kristen Smith said. “After a bit though and after the initial shock, I also understood it was about public health and safety and since we do work with the public so much, we wanted to be sure our customers and staff were safe and stayed healthy through everything.”

“At first, there was some worry and feelings of being upset because there was that initial flurry of fear of what would happen with my family if I couldn't work since I feel this line of work is essential for staff and clients,” Beauty Bar Z Owner Mayra Zapien added. “Then after that initial gut reaction, my other feeling was that everyone needed to stay safe because a big concern of mine was potentially taking it home to my family and kids. So overall, it was a bit of an emotional seesaw, so to speak, for me.”

Even with the stay-at-home order implemented, however, the work didn’t entirely stop. 

“We had already practiced social distancing to a degree, and we were very good about keeping everything cleaned and wiped down, but when the situation started getting extra serious we had to talk to customers about if they had traveled recently and how they were feeling and things like that, so we were taking some of those extra precautions. Then we ultimately shut down after the statewide stay-at-home order was announced,” Smith said. “Then while everything was shut down, we did a thorough cleaning of the entire facility and then we started looking into some online courses so we could keep in practice and stay on top of everything for when things did reopen. Then before we opened, we went through again and cleaned and sanitized everything and started going over what the shop would look like as far as the social distancing guidelines and things like that.”

“I had actually closed my shop a week prior to the statewide order being implemented because I actually have a son with an underlying condition, so I was nervous for his sake. So the first thing I did was get ahold of our clients and let them know what was happening with Beauty Bar Z and then ultimately, I shut the salon down for the duration of the order,” Zapien said. “Then while everything was closed we did a bunch of overall prep like stocking up on some extra hand sanitizer and some extra cleaning supplies, which we were lucky to find since everyone went crazy buying that stuff. We wanted to be sure we were covered on all the sanitization fronts so everyone would be safe and everything in the salon would be within the hygiene guidelines and all of that. We also decided to take some online courses to keep in practice and things like that, and we were also posting some updates on social media about what was going on.”

Gov. Kelly’s plan to reopen the state was separated into four different phases. Phase 2 was originally pushed back until the beginning of June, and then Kelly announced early last week Phase 2 would actually be implemented starting Friday, which included allowing salons and similar facilities to reopen. Upon hearing that news, Smith and Zapien agreed, they were extremely happy. 

“I was very excited and happy to hear we'd be able to reopen, but there are also some nerves involved because there's still so much debate about masks and those things, but we know as professionals we have to do whatever we can to make sure we're safe and our customers are safe and we're practicing the recommended guidelines,” Smith said. “So we'll still be doing everything we did before as far as cleaning and wiping everything down, but we'll also be taking it one step further in order to keep everyone safe. For Lash Lounge, we're doing only appointments right now, so we'll have some limits on how many people will be allowed in the salon at a time, and we'll also be checking our customers' temperatures as they come in, and there's also a form they have to sign. Customers also have to wear a mask at all times and after each customer, we'll be doing a full and thorough cleaning of that particular station before we call in our next client. Along with the masks and temperatures, we'll also have the customers wash their hands before we work on them and we'll also have a short questionnaire for them with questions about travel and things like that.”

“It was a big surprise, honestly, considering the numbers still being seen in the area, which is still a bit scary, but we're taking all the precautions we can as far as cleaning everything and not letting anyone in the building without a mask,” Zapien said. “Right now, we're taking appointments only and only the person with the appointment is allowed inside (unless it's a child with the appointment, then their parents can be in the salon with them) and we're doing a lot of extra cleaning. We actually had everything ordered that we needed and we have some extra signage up in the salon for everyone, and we've shared everything on social media. We recommend coming in with a very limited number of personal items, maybe just bring with you your wallet and keys and phone, basically the things you absolutely know you'll need during and after the appointment is finished. Call before you come in and we'll let you in the door and we want to do everything we can to minimize the number of surfaces everyone touches so we can keep everyone safe, and we also require everyone to wear a mask, even though we know they're uncomfortable, but everyone's safety is our priority.”

Overall, Smith and Zapien said, they are very excited to see things start to reopen. 

“I'm really excited to see our customers again, it's been too long. We've got our protocols in place for cleaning the stations and work areas and those things and for the near future here, this is how we'll have to run things in order to keep our staff and our customers safe per the guidelines,” Smith said. “But we are excited to see everyone again and we can't wait to get clients in the door again. We'll be taking appointments only, people can call the shop to do that or reach out to us on social media through our Facebook page. We're very excited to see people in the shop again and it's great how we're one step closer to everything going back to normal.”

“I'm really excited to see everyone again, we're taking the precautions seriously and we want everyone to be as comfortable as possible while in the salon. Sanitation to the extreme is one of the major things we're doing at the salon,” Zapien added. “We're excited to be open again and thankful to everyone who's supported us, and we hope everyone continues to stay healthy during this time.”

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