Two salon owners' views on running businesses during a pandemic
Mayfield stands inside Salon de Nouveau. (Courtesy Victor Mendivil Jr. )
The new normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic for hair salons and barbershops in Tucson may not be as far away as many might think.
Extra precautions taken at hair salons and barbershops such as Personal Protective Equipment, regular disinfection, etc. have become necessary in Arizona as the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona is 79,215 cases as of today, July 1, according to Arizona Department of Health Services website. Hair salons, barber shops, cosmetology, nail and aesthetic salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlors, spas and massage therapist services have been in operation since May 8.
Recent closures of businesses have also become a new normal for many business owners after various executive orders, even though salons and barbershops have not been affected by the most recent order.
Gov. Doug Ducey issued a statewide mandatory closure on April 4 of businesses deemed non-essential such as salons and barbershops. More recently, on June 29, Gov. Ducey issued a new executive order, that will be in effect for one month, pausing operations of other types of businesses such as of bars, gyms, movie theaters, waterparks and tubing rentals. The executive order will also delay the start of the school year for in-person learning until Aug. 17, according to the Office of the Governor Doug Ducey. The operation of salon and barbershops will not be affected by this Executive Order.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Arizona Health Services and the Department of Labor have collaborated to provide information to the governor’s office in order to recommend proper guidance for the professionals within the fields list previously. It has been noted that most salons and barber shops already had preemptive sanitation practices put in place.
After Gov. Ducey called for a statewide reopening of the economy, local Tucson businesses, like Salon de Nouveau and Lj’s Barber Shop, had to make a slight change in perspective and practices.
Salon de Nouveau
Tracy Mayfield, stylist and owner of Salon de Nouveau for the last three years, knew hair was her medium of choice from an early age.
“I knew from an early age, it [styling hair] interested me. In fifth grade, I got my haircut from long to short, the environment looked so cool," Mayfield said. "My stylist at the time had leather shorts on and I thought that was just spectacular. I enjoy taking care of people, I enjoy making people feel good about themselves.”
Despite Mayfield’s fairly recent acquisition of Salon de Nouveau, Mayfield has been in the beauty industry for over 25 years, Mayfield considered the business of hair styling has to be ‘recession proof’ but there is something inherently different about this time around.
“Even in the Great Depression, hairdressers did okay, because you're always going to need your hair done. But in this particular [instance], we are one of the only industries that actually touches people. What I realized is that during the shutdown and then having people come back in is that we create these really strong relationships over many, many years," Mayfield said. "I have gals that I've done their hair since before they met their husbands, they met their husband, they have their babies, their babies are now driving cars and going off to college and even sometimes for their husband's funeral. I want to make sure that we keep it relaxing and enjoyable. Sadly, it can feel like people are scared and nervous to come see us and that is weird and I never never never would have thought [that was possible]."
Some establishments, like Mayfield’s salon, can easily mark time pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic. Especially as the salon was used to receiving around 100 news guests a month.
“Once the shutdown happened, we lost at least two months worth of revenue. Luckily, I was set up, I had back up, [there were still bills to pay] but [fortunately] I was able to get my whole team on unemployment. But moving back in the business at this point, I'm almost back to full capacity and I definitely attribute that to being in a long standing place,” Mayfield said.
As the future is still uncertain, there is still plenty of worry to spare, according to Mayfield.
“Anytime there's an uptick in COVID-19. You know, like, right now the hospitals are filling up again. And I know Dr. Fauci has said these next two weeks are very pivotal," Mayfield said. "We get cancellations, we have had a lot of cancellations this past week. That is worrisome because no matter if we're closed or not closed, if the sentiment is ‘do not go out,’ that means they will not come to see us. So that could ruin our business."
With eight hair stylists, three nail professionals and a skincare professional, including Mayfield at Salon de Nouveau, every staff member is allowed to freely choose their own personal safety method in order to protect themselves since social distancing can not be fully applied within a salon setting.
“[The difficulty] is that there are so many opinions and it is very hard right now, because there are not any clear guidelines. There's a lot left up to interpretation. I was even studying the CDC guidelines last night. Looking for particulars on face shields versus face masks and how there's just so much that you really have to decide for yourself and as a salon," Mayfield said. "Enforcing rules that I thought I'd never have to enforce, I really had to get very strict and it ended up getting almost political and you must choose a side to move forward. Now the political side per se, but like are masks good, are masks bad. The rules of COVID are very vague and everyone has different ideas. I've had to become a stronger leader because of it.”
In practice, Salon de Nouveau is operating on an appointment basis, according to Mayfield; that way there is only one person per stylist, which eliminates the factor of the waiting room by serving the clients as soon as they come in. The cancellation of complimentary fifteen minute ‘detail’ appointments like a bang trim or a neck trim also happened to slow down the flow of people, according to Mayfield.
The routine work day is procedurally similar but now sanitation plays a pivotal role in the safety of the salon.
“We have definitely upped our sanitation, sterilizing everything in between, more time in between guests to do the full sanitation. [As well as] regular sanitation throughout the salon during the day,” Mayfield said.
Luis Arias, barber and owner of Lj’s Barbershop has been a barber since 2010 and has operated out of Tucson for the last two years. Arias's shop has more to offer than just haircuts.
"Other than cutting hair, we do shaves with a straight razor old fashioned style with shaving cream and hot towels, beard trimming. So if you want your beard in any certain design or style, we can do it. We also do facials,” Arias said.
As for Arias, the bottom line in a situation like this is for barbers to be properly trained in sanitation.
“We [barbers] are ahead of the game, we've been doing this even way before all these viruses started," Arias said. "Like a long time ago, they stopped us from using straight razors because of HIV. That was another virus that was killing a lot of people. So we learned about, you know, blood borne pathogens and so we’re all up to date with our studies about viruses and general health."
The team working in the barbershop is made up of three employees, including Arias.
The key for Arias is to take necessary caution when needed.
“I have a duty to keep working and also because of necessity. My bills do not stop coming in. So, you know, if I stop working then everything goes downhill. I have no other choice, I have to work,” Arias said.
Lj’s Barbershop is operating through an appointment and walk-in basis, appointments are preferred and will be served first. Wearing masks is also now the norm due to the emergency proclamation signed by Mayor Regina Romero on June 18 that went into effect on June 20.
However, Lj's Barbershop has abided by Mayor Romero's rules in their own way.
“You are not required to wear a mask when you're getting your haircut. It's up to you if you want to, that's fine the barber will work around it … We wash our hands and clean our tools. We can have no more than 10 people in our business at a time," Arias said. "Another thing we're doing is checking temperatures at the door. There are times where I don't check the temperature because we're so busy that we don't have time to do that. We are just asking the public to be courteous and not come in while you're sick. We're gonna have some precautions as far as keeping everybody else safe but everyone's welcome."
While nothing has truly changed, according to Arias, because people always need a haircut, business has never been better.
“[The shutdown] did not affect us just because the time that we were out of work, people's hair would grow out so much and not everybody decided to do their own haircuts," Arias said. "Income wise, I think we have more business now just because people have noticed haircuts are very essential. I have built my business on my relationships with people and people know me and they can count on me. Even though we were on lockdown, for my people, I was still cutting hair at my house."
All across Tucson, salons and barbershops have acclimated to this new normal with a different outlook filled with hope and prosperity for the future.
“People are always gonna want to look good; they are always gonna need to be taken care of," Mayfield said. "[The pandemic] is a shock to the industry, but people are still coming in and people will still come in. We need the talent, the expertise and people that are willing to innovate. There is a lot of potential for growth. The industry is never going away."
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