Summit County embraces return of barbershops, salons after shutdown
FRISCO — It is safe to say that many Americans will never again take getting a haircut or manicure for granted.
Among the many joys of everyday life that the pandemic has robbed from people — bars, restaurant dining, movie theaters, concerts, parties — one lament has been particularly ubiquitous, if a bit superficial: not being able to get a haircut.
On May 1, barbershops, nail salons and other personal services reopened in Summit County for the first time in nearly two months. At last came an end to the universal descent into dishevelment, the progression of which could be tracked through seemingly endless Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls.
Since reopening, the grooming businesses are radically different from the days before COVID-19. Now, a haircut or mani-pedi comes with strict hygiene protocols and occupancy restrictions, leading to awkward interactions while providing a much-needed taste of normality during these strange times.
For six weeks between March and May, Colorado’s beauty service businesses were shut down by the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies as “nonessential personal services” that needed to be closed to prevent further spread of the virus.
Aside from hair and nails, those services also include tattoo parlors, massage therapists and spas.
The aforementioned businesses have been subject to particular scrutiny by public health officials. They require up close, physical contact between staff and customers for extended periods of time.
Closing off access to beauty and grooming has drawn the ire of anti-shutdown protesters, with some displaying “I need a haircut” signs, and led to much mockery on social media.
But to those grooming businesses, reopening has been a dead-serious endeavor. Along with trying to make up for six weeks of lost business, they also must spend extra time, energy and resources in order to conform with the county and state’s physical distancing and safety protocols. And they have to convince customers that it is safe to enter their establishments.
The Gentlemen’s Barbershop off Main Street in Frisco, which was voted best barbershop in Summit Daily’s Best of Summit competition, has come back to business with an array of changes that owner Scott Lemme said goes beyond what has been required to ensure client safety.
The waiting area — which once greeted clients with the whiff of coffee, a nostalgic Americana pastiche, comfy chairs, newspapers and a fridge full of cold drinks — lies empty and silent. Now, clients are seen only by appointment. They check in from outside through a window and have to wait until they are called in.
Entry is made through the back door, and clients leave out the front, ensuring one-way access that avoids people passing one another at choke points. Every other barber chair has been cordoned off, and everyone is required to wear a facial covering at all times, even while getting their haircut. That means no beard trims or shaves.
After each client, barbers take 15 minutes to wipe down and sanitize their stations. Lemme said he went as far as buying 100 new barber capes to ensure clients always get a fresh one out of the wash. All of these changes cost time, money and effort, but Lemme sees it as worth it to ensure safety. It also works to give customers peace of mind.
“We want clients to feel like this is a place they can feel safe and they can recommend us to other people,” Lemme said. “Initially, they might be a little unsure of how safe it is or what the process is like. But as soon as they come in, their attitude changes, and they trust us, like, ‘OK, you guys are taking this seriously.’”
A few blocks west, the Studio 269 Hair and Nail Salon is also taking extra steps to keep stylists and customers safe.
Owner Julie Beck said she has had to work at 50% capacity with only two or three clients who can be seen at the same time. She is also forced to work with limited hours and staggered schedules.
Hygiene standards — which Beck and Lemme noted were already stringent for barbers and salons to begin with — have been considerably heightened. Beck said she and her employees spent a good amount of time trying to come up with their own protocol.
At the salon, stylists and nail technicians must always wear facial coverings, and a disinfection protocol has been established for staff and customers. Customers are asked to wash their hands with soap and water as well as wear face covers, even if they personally feel it is unnecessary. All touch points and hard surfaces in the store are frequently sanitized, including broom handles and the floor.
“We don’t want to be passing it on,” Beck said, referring to the microscopic virus. “I am doing everything to make sure everyone in there is safe, and to keep us open and working.”
Beck said she has been very thankful for the efforts the town of Frisco has made to help her and other business owners get through the shutdown with the rental relief program and other assistance. However, the occupancy limits have put a serious bind on the salon’s revenue, and she hopes occupancy restrictions can be relaxed to 75% by June.
Regardless, Beck said she is thrilled to be open again, even with half the business and a higher burden on operations.
“We are really happy to be open and working again,” Beck said. “Our clients are happy, too. We missed talking to each other. We’re part of their lives, and they’re part of my life.”
Aside from looking good, both owners attested to how the mental health of their clients markedly improved after getting a fresh haircut or perfect nails. The sense of normalcy in the world and renewed confidence in their appearance seemed to give clients a mood boost they hadn’t known for many weeks.
“People generally feel in good spirits and confident when they get a haircut, but now there’s this new twist to it,” Lemme said. “They’ve been secluded and staying at home for weeks, but now they’re coming into the shop and feel some normalcy, and they need some of that social interaction and positivity in their life.”
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