Salons adjust to new guidelines as they reopen

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By RACHEL MADISON
When Gov. Greg Abbott announced businesses could begin to reopen in early May, salons were not part of that order. But just a few days later, Abbott announced salons could open their doors beginning May 8. In Liberty Hill, many salons worked hard to prepare to reopen, while others are taking a more cautious approach to seeing clients once again.

Dana Clark, owner and stylist at Dana’s Hair Salon, was able to get back to work right away, but not without some changes to support social distancing.

“I used to be a two-chair salon, but I had to rearrange to be a one-chair salon,” she said. “I lost the income of renting a second station, but I had to get rid of a station because my salon is so small.”

She is also no longer double-booking clients, which she used to do.

“I’d do a color and do a cut in between, but now I can’t do that,” she said. “That’s really different for me. I usually double book because a client sits for 45 minutes while waiting for processing. Everything will just be at a much slower pace.”

Clark is also asking clients to wait in their cars when they arrive at her salon and call to let her know they are there. Clients must wear masks and wash their hands upon entering the salon, and Clark is making sure she sanitizes everything well between each person who comes in. She also has a questionnaire clients will fill out, answering questions about any symptoms and likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.

“As a salon, we sanitize really well anyway, so that was not a big change for us,” she said. “The kicker is the mask. It makes it hard to get around the guy’s ears. I have to ask clients to hold their mask on their face while I get around their ears. It’s just not as friendly as it used to be.”

Ket Vora, owner of Absolute Nails, also reopened May 8, but has put strict measures in place to protect herself and her clients. In fact, while she was closed, she took two separate refresher courses on sanitization and infection control.

“I’ve always been very particular about being clean, so there hasn’t been much impact on us in that way, but when I found out we could open, I went in a couple of days before and cleaned, sterilized and soaked everything a client could touch in Barbicide,” she said.

Barbicide is a hospital-grade disinfectant that salons use to keep tools and areas clean between clients. Vora has also decided to close her salon every other day to help keep things as germ-free as possible. She is now open only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“I personally feel like it’s safer if I open my shop every other day,” she said. “If I sterilize at the end of day, and then let it sit for a whole day, everything should be dead. Saturdays are my only exception, so I can accommodate people who work during the week.”

Vora has also implemented contactless payments, which means she no longer takes credit cards. She uses payment apps such as PayPal and Venmo to complete transactions. However, she said she will make exceptions for elderly clients who may not use those apps.

“People have been understanding that they have to wear a mask at all times, and I will open doors for you,” Vora said. “When you come in, I ask that you go straight and wash your hands. I lock the door once you’re in, so no one is able to walk in.”

The Hair Stop also opened on May 8, but again, some adjustments were made to follow state guidelines and support social distancing. Owner Mary Ledezma said clients are asked to stay in their cars until someone comes out to get them, and upon entering her salon, they will have their temperature taken, and they will fill out and sign a questionnaire regarding any possible symptoms.

“We are only allowing one person per stylist or barber, unless it’s a child,” she said. “If it’s a child, we’re asking for just one parent with them only. We are wearing masks and asking clients to wear one as well. If they don’t have a mask, we have some disposable towels at the front door, and we’re asking them to hold that over their face.”

Because of a renovation done before COVID-19 hit, the chairs in Ledezma’s salon are already six feet apart. She and barber Tim Flem are the only two working in the salon as of now, but she has room to add a third stylist and still be six feet apart. She plans on hiring a third stylist soon.

“I had to cancel a month and half of appointments, and now I’m working to get all those rescheduled,” Ledezma said. “We are working by appointment only and not taking any walk-ins, so we’re doing the best we can. We want to take care of everybody like before, but patience is important with everyone trying to reopen.”

Kayla Witbeck, owner of Radiant Salon & Boutique, couldn’t believe how many texts and Facebook messages she received as soon as Gov. Abbott announced salons could reopen.

“Everyone was doing what they could to get their appointments as fast as they could,” she said. “It was crazy because my phone was just blowing up. I think people are just excited to have some normalcy back.”

She also opened her salon May 8 and has been booked solid since. Sanitization has always been strict at her salon, Witbeck said, which means that aspect hasn’t changed much. However, clients are being asked to wait in their cars until their technician is ready for them, and the salon is only accepting no contact payment. All the stations in the salon were designed six feet apart anyway, Witbeck said, which means they did not have to make any modifications to the stations before reopening.

“We’re letting clients wear masks if they want to, but we’re leaving it up to them,” she said. “We have a sign that says it’s recommended, but not required. I will have my N-95 mask on. If people are more timid about going into places where people aren’t wearing masks, we are definitely informing them that we aren’t requiring it.”

Indigo Salon will not be reopening until May 19, said Owner Jaime Amezquita, and for good reason.

“We actually pulled up stations and moved them so that they are at least six feet apart,” she said. “We are having to patch the ground underneath them, so it’s turned into a bit of a remodel. It’s just been crazy implementing all these protocols, but we weren’t going to reduce our standards just to open up a week earlier.”

Indigo Salon formerly had six stations along one wall. The salon still has six stations, but they are now spaced out to support social distancing, and additional electrical outlets were added to accommodate the new station locations.

Employees at Indigo Salon will be wearing masks and requiring clients to wear them as well. Amezquita said she’s also suspended all blowouts, hand massages, neck massages, and hot towels for now.

“We have basically suspended anything that’s unnecessary to getting your hair done,” she said.

In addition, clients will be asked to wash their hands upon entering the salon and will be having their temperature taken. To help the influx of clients that she expects to come in once her salon is open, Amezquita has decided to extend her salon’s hours to be open on Tuesdays, when it was previously closed. She has also hired another stylist to help with the load when the salon reopens.

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