LIMA — When the state’s order came down the line to close hair salons, Guys & Dolls Hair Co. owner Rebecca Yarnell started making calls.
“The day of, we double- and triple-booked ourselves and got an amazing amount of clients,” Yarnell said. “We stayed past the late shift to get everyone in.”
But now, she waits.
Like many business owners who have had to close their businesses due to COVID-19, those who own hair salons, tattoo parlors and barbershops have been sitting in a holding pattern this past week as they’ve considered their options.
“There’s so many uncertainties,” Maggie Curtis, hair stylist and owner of Level IV Salon Suites said. “We’re all trying to be very supportive of each other and positive, but there are so many uncertainties.”
Fortunately, many local hair salon and barbershop owners have been able to set up enough savings to weather the storm, so far. While estimates on how long such businesses can function without a steady income has varied among those interviewed, many agree that they have at least some breathing room before they run into an emergency financial situation.
“You have to put back for times and situations like this. Fortunately, I have a little bit stacked up,” Black Lace Hair Salon Owner Jesse Lowe, said. “A month in a half from now, it’s going to make it rough not only us for owners but for our customers.”
Jill Bakies-Lewis, owner of Beauty by Jill Salon & Spa, said her business had been planning for a move to 233 S. Main St. when it closed last week. Without clear direction on how the shutdown orders will be resolved, she’s aiming to be working out of the new location by May. For many, being closed much longer will be challenging without some sort of financial support.
“We were talking a couple weeks, and now, (it’s) a couple of months. That’s a long time to be mentally stressed and be a prisoner to a business that isn’t producing any type of income,” Timothy Wannemacher, owner of Angel’s Family Hair Salon, said.
For many business owners, however, they’ve recognized that the shutdown has put more pressure on their employees than on themselves. A number of salon owners have already waived booth rental fees during the expected downturn to ease the burdens that stylists face with no income.
“Stylists, most of the time, are hustlers. They are. They’re working. Most of the time, they’re working hard. It is unfortunate to have this abruptly happen,” Krissy Kidd-Faurot, owner of Eviah Salon & Spa, said.
“I was very nervous for my employees more so than for the business. As a hair stylist, you only make money if you’re working. There’s no such thing as sick days or vacation days because they’re paid on commission,” Bakies-Lewis said.
State certifications have also hampered stylists’ ability to make house calls. Not long after the state’s orders on hair salons came down the line, the Ohio State Cosmetology and Barber Board sent out an email reminding stylists of the state’s safety restrictions.
Curtis said the experience has been scary for both her business and her employees as they try to apply for unemployment and other government services to survive during the downturn. Curtis, herself, has tried to file with the state on three different occasions, but the overwhelming number of those looking for help has kept the online application overloaded with web traffic. Other fellow stylists, she said, have had more luck, she said.
If all else fails, the other option for stylists is to find work during the downturn to try to make it through.
“I’m hearing from stylists from all over Lima. ‘I’m going to have to get a job to pay for a job that I’m not working,’” Wannemacher said.
The final group of people that may struggle with hair salon shutdowns are the clients themselves. For now, salon customers have been actively supporting their stylists to ensure they stay afloat, and multiple salon owners said they’ve received monetary donations from clients as well as a wave of gift card purchases for future hair treatments.
“Customers have been letting us know: ‘We will reschedule. We can’t wait to see you.’ That feels good to know that they’re thinking of us,” Yarnell said.
“I did have one customer come to me, and said, ‘Jesse, you’re always out in the community so I want to bless you.’ She handed me an envelope. … She gave me donation of $300,” Lowe said. “She’s only been in my salon once, and I was like, ‘Wow, that was a blessing.’ If you do right, you get right, at the end of the day.”
To keep customers engaged, a few business owners have stayed active on social media, sending out memes and other messages to engage their social audience and encourage customers to write positive reviews. A few have also opened up a few hours in the day to sell specialized salon products to hopefully temper the damage overenthusiastic clients may incur with home hair cuts.
Yarnell said she expects some customers are already taking hair care into their own hands with home hair colorings, and not all results will be pretty. A week after closing, a few clients are already clamoring for touch-ups, she said.
“We’re going to see lots of wild hair, lots of gray roots,” Curtis said. “We’re going to be busy.”
“I just really want individuals to know that when this is all over, the doors will be open.” Lowe said.
“We’re looking forward to putting this behind us and celebrating with a re-grand opening at our new location in downtown Lima,” Bakies-Lewis said.
“We’re hoping for the best when we get back,” Yarnell said.
“I don’t believe that our government is just going to completely fail us altogether. I believe there’s going to be programs and small business bailouts and good things,” Wannemacher said. “The problem is how long is this going to take.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.