Georgia Is Reopening: 4 Salon Owners on Resuming Business Post-Quarantine

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From school closures to statewide curfews, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered our daily lives. The United States has been hit the hardest by the virus, with over one million confirmed cases across the nation. As of May 1, New York had more than 300,000 cases, while nearly 50,000 people in California have been affected. In Georgia, there have been more than 26,000 cases. As cases continue to increase each day, many health experts and officials have urged states not to ease shelter-in-place mandates just yet. However, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp announced on April 20 that select non-essential businesses, including body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses would be allowed to reopen beginning April 24. 

During a press conference following his decision, Kemp said, “People working in many of these places are at home going broke, worried about whether or not they can feed their children or make the mortgage payment." He added, "We also have to think about the effects on our economy and on those individuals from a mental health perspective." Kemp’s decision was met with ample criticism across the nation. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appeared on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time on April 20 to express her concerns with his plan. 

“Stay home. Nothing has changed,” she said. “People are still dying. We’ve got to get money into the pockets of people who are concerned about putting food on their tables and paying their rent. That’s where we should be putting our energy.” To provide financial support to Atlanta beauty professionals impacted by the virus, the mayor launched the “Strength In Beauty” fund on April 21. She kicked the initiative off with a $10,000 personal contribution.

“My mother ran a beauty salon, so I understand the economic pull of this, but you have to live to be able to fight another day,” Lance Bottoms said during her CNN interview. “If we’re not alive on the other side, there won’t be a recovery to be had. How do you get a haircut and stay a safe distance from someone cutting your bangs?” 

With conflicting guidance from the state and local government, barbershop and salon owners in Georgia are faced with a tough decision: Should they reopen their doors or remain closed? Over the past week, beauty and grooming pros have been spending their days figuring out how and when they can safely resume business. Ahead, we talk to four barbershop and salon owners about how they are choosing to move forward amidst these unprecedented times. 

India Bertin, owner of HiTexture Hair Salon

India Bertin

On resuming business...

“At the time Governor Kemp gave the green light to reopen some businesses like salons, spas, and barbershops, I felt it was too soon because COVID-19 cases in Georgia were still rising. It also did not give us enough time for preparation. So, I, along with my team, decided it was too early for us to reopen. Our main concern is keeping our staff and clients safe. I don’t think we would be able to guarantee that if we opened this past Friday. Currently, our plan is to reopen on May 15th, provided the threat of COVID continues to decline.”

On keeping clients safe...

“In our line of work, the notion of social distancing really doesn’t exist. We work within two feet of our clients throughout the service. So, this is a particular challenge we face, as we plan out our social distancing measures. In addition to implementing new requirements set in place by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology, such as staff wearing protective face shields, temperature checks, and health questionnaires, we will also require each client to wear a face-covering upon entering. We will also limit the number of clients we will service throughout the day so that we can maintain no more than 10 people in the salon at any given time. I’m sure this change will ring music to our client’s ears.”

Courtney Williams, owner of The Curl Conqueror Hair Salon

Courtney

On resuming business...

“Governor Kemp's decision to allow nail salons, hair salons, and barbershops to reopen as of April 24, was extremely risky. Reopening on April 24 was not a risk that I was willing to take for myself, my assistants, or my clientele. Of course, it saddens me that I am not able to do hair, but what would bring me more sadness is knowing that I put someone's life in jeopardy of death. I feel it is too soon to open right now as the number of deaths are increasing, and there is no practical way to social distance or stand six feet away from my clients as I do their hair. I am hesitant to confirm a date that business will resume business, given the circumstances.”

On keeping clients safe...

“When I do begin servicing clients at my shop, I plan on abiding by and exceeding the updated rules and regulations of the GA State Board of Cosmetology. I will screen my clients prior to them being serviced with questions mandated by The Georgia State Board of Cosmetology, such as: ‘Have you had a cough?’ or ‘Have you been around anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms?’ As normal, I will not double book my clients. As instructed by the state, I also purchased a thermometer to check clients' temperature. Lastly, I will remain firm. Should anyone refuse to comply with the regulations brought forth by The GA State Board of Cosmetology, I will respectfully refuse their service. These are just some of the many new implementations that I will incorporate into my business. As you can imagine, these plans are subject to change.”

Linda Sharp, owner of Lark and Sparrow Nail Salon 

On resuming business...

“I was shocked and angry. With the current rates and cases, I don’t feel comfortable opening back up yet. The guidelines have offered suggestions, but no real rules about protecting each other, and that scares me because I’m afraid that the businesses that do open might increase the rates. We’re all in business to make money but not to die for the money. My biggest worry is someone getting sick because we’re being irresponsible. I don’t want to get sick or potentially die either. I can’t foresee that we would open before the last week of May, based on the shipping of the safety supplies that we would need. But, that will all be dependent on what the case rate looks like. 

On keeping clients safe...

“I’m currently working on my plan. I’ve located the safety supplies we would need and found that we can’t even get the safety equipment we would need until the middle of May. One of the main things is trying to figure out how many stations we can have. We are going to have to cut our availability of stations in half and move furniture around to adhere to distancing rules.”

Yisrael Wright, owner of The Yizclusive Experience Men’s Grooming Spa

Yizclusive

On resuming business...

“With the decision being made on [April 20], I was a little bit surprised for the Phase 1 businesses to be open only four days later with no immediate assistance to get products, necessary supplies, and training in place for staff and owners. However, I’m a solution-driven individual with a proactive team behind me, and we started putting the proper steps in place to reopen within 10 days. Our projected date per the Governor continuing to allow businesses to resume is Friday, May 1.”

On keeping clients safe...

“When we do resume services, we will have additional steps and requirements to ensure safety. We will limit the amount of people in the space, install cough and sneeze shields between each station, and wear masks, gloves, and facial shields. We will consistently wipe down common areas, require temperature testing at the door and mandatory hand washing, and use air purifiers to keep the air quality high. These new norms will give us more control over our work environment and the overall experience for the client. With the system we have created, the experience will flow smoothly and give us all additional confidence to do what we do best, and that’s serving the community through grooming."


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