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Local Barber Shops and Beauty Salons Adjust to the COVID 19 Mandated Quarantine

By Megan Davis
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter

Barber shops and beauty salons are often community hubs where people gather to discuss current events, provide a listening ear, meet up with and create trendsetting styles for customers from day to day.

Regular customers have relationships with their hair stylist or barber. Their hair specialists know what styles and products work best for their clients, and they have a unique method to fashion flattering looks for them.

You may go into a barber shop and see someone playing chess or watching a game or boxing match. The commentary is full of energy and may become a debate every now and then. There’s nothing like seeing brothers dap it up, talk to young men about life and to see young boys getting clean cut for school as their parents often look on.

Likewise, when women go into a salon, they have looked forward to their appointment and can be seen relaxing, reading a book under the dryer or watching a movie and discussing it with other customers. When their hair is done, they often feel magical, like they just had their crown adjusted and they leave ready to seize the day with confidence.

Black barbers and hair stylists are often self-employed; not many work in chain salons these days. So there isn’t much income earned by way of hourly wages that are paid out on a weekly or bi- weekly schedule. They also may own a salon or shop or rent a booth.

For many, hair cultivation is a primary source of income and has sustained the livelihood of these small business owners for years. While several barbers operate on a walk-in basis, salon owners tend to schedule appointments to provide one-on-one service with as little wait time as possible. There is a science to it all, maintaining a space, a schedule, finances, building and equipment maintenance and balancing family. But they do it, and some even involve their families in their businesses.

With the rapid changes the coronavirus pandemic has imposed on everyone, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has mandated that most businesses close their doors, including salons and barber shops. He has also issued a “stay home” order as well, keeping people indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to go out.

This new normal of being indoors, not working and trying to plan next steps has proven to be a challenge for salon and barber shop owners.

“Honestly, it has affected me and other stylists a lot. It was very unexpected so now we have to find other ways to provide for our families because we can’t work in the salon and it’s illegal to work from home. I am still responsible for paying rent at a location I can’t occupy or operate in. Should this go on for a prolonged period of time, I will be forced to seek employment alternatives.” stated Alondra Hadley, owner of The Social Lounge Salon in South Toledo.  

This is a sentiment that has resonated among these small business owners who may be scrambling to find a way to continue caring for their families with as little disruption as possible. “This pandemic has really hurt small businesses greatly. I am very hopeful that we as an industry, community, city, state and a nation will come through this.  I will now begin restructuring and planning for the long haul. Although I have more financial responsibilities now, I’m in a better situation compared to the last recession,” said Doug Keetion, owner of Studio 329.

While many weren’t prepared for the uncertainty this pandemic has created, some stylists are cautiously optimistic. Tiffany Thomas is a local stylist/braider who just added apprenticeship training to her business stated, “People are still trying to book and unfortunately I have to turn them away; but with savings, it allows me to be okay until this blows over.”

In small business, there aren’t a lot of resources in place for situations as unique and as abrupt as the COVID 19 social distancing has caused. Keetion continues, “I'm disappointed in the insurance industry. Most business insurance policies have a product for loss of income. They don't tell you until you file a claim they don't cover a virus. I wish all the governors will follow New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; he's passing a law to make all insurance companies cover all claims from Covid 19. The saddest part is insurance companies want businesses to still pay premiums and their businesses are closed due to this virus, lacking empathy for us.” 

Many small businesses are often uninsured. The current $2 trillion economic stimulus plan, as introduced in Congress, is being ironed out in Washington, as of Monday this week. It could provide a great relief to these struggling businesses who could potentially fold under these closures.

Although both Democrats and Republicans agree on the urgency of the matter, they can’t agree on all of the proposed provisions which currently would give families of four up to $3,000, expand unemployment benefits and offer loans to tide over small businesses like hair salons. Democrats are blocking moving ahead because Republicans are resisting that portion of the proposition. Negotiations continue and it is hoped that a favorable vote will take place this week.

Just last month, The Toledo Museum of Art’s Circle Group, in partnership with ProMedica, hosted The Art of the Cut, where nearly 1,000 guests attended throughout the day. Local barbers took center stage to create haircuts from yesterday, today and the future. Because barber shops are often sanctuaries for men, Robin Charney of ProMedica, has been going into the shops for over two years, talking about black men’s health, while offering free health screenings.

A partnership that has evolved into an event that brings art and health together on one platform. One of the barbers featured at Art of the Cut was Andre Johnson of Fletcher’s Hair Design in West Toledo. While this temporary shutdown has affected his business somewhat, his part-time employment in a local factory helps him take care of his immediate needs until the quarantine passes. When asked if he and the other barbers keep in touch, he said “Yes, but since we are unsure of how long this will last, we are doing our best to prepare to reopen when the time comes.”

Ray Vargas, who also was an Art of the Cut participant and owner of Victory Barber shop in West Toledo shared that while everything is put on hold, he has a back-up plan. However, having to close his business down, not being able to do what he loves is also heart wrenching.

The Beauty Mark Luxury Beauty Bar, slated to open next month is delayed due to the quarantine. Owner Ty’Keysha Harris said she will continue renovations throughout this time since she has invested in her new salon. “This is my main source of income, so it’s definitely taking a toll on my budget. Even though they’ve given us a grace period to not pay certain bills, they will still accumulate and be due once this epidemic is over. I have a young song to care for and I don’t want to be in a financial hole. I’ve come too far to not see this vision come to pass!”

As these salons and barber shops sit closed, with darkened windows, and uncertainty mounts, barbers and hairstylists alike are hopeful for a new lease on business when the lights are back on, and their chairs are filled again.

Larry Walker is a stylist at Studio 329 and has a positive perspective on the situation. “Well this whole thing is a reality check. I feel like for me it’s a reset. Time to reflect on me and what I’m actually doing in the world. I worked for a few days from home but stopped and at this point I’m relying on God to do what he said and be a provider and to be a shoulder and to be my eyes when I can’t see! I’m just gonna get myself in position for the bounce back because once this lifts, we will be bombarded by people wanting their pretty back!”



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/24/20 21:07:02 -0400.

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