Stylists and barbers are finally able to dust off the tools of their trade and get back to work. Dan King photo

NORWAY — Bye bye split ends. Good riddance to gray roots. Hello highlights and welcome back deep conditioning! The loss of our favorite hair stylists to COVID-19 social distancing has been an inconvenience bordering on punishment for many.

But hair stylists and barbers are back – one of the personal care, public-facing businesses that Governor Janet Mills has authorized to re-open on May 1. Clients are beyond happy. Stylists are relieved to get back to business. But caution for safety will continue to dictate a new normal that may take getting used to.

“We’ve got this,” said Patricia Thomas, owner and stylist at Hair & Company on Main Street in Norway. “We have our safety protocols in place and we are ready.”

The size of the Hair & Company salon will make it possible for up to six people, including clients, to be there at once. Thomas said that they have set up their stations so everyone has immediate access to hand sanitizer and there is more than six feet of social distancing space. She said she and fellow stylists Bobbi Jo Clark and Tammy Durgin are nervous but also extremely excited to pick up the shears and combs.

“We are planning to work up to six, maybe even seven days a week to get caught up,” she said. “We are staggering our scheduled times and leaving time between clients for sanitizing. But we are determined to make sure our clients are taken care of within the next few weeks.”

Down the street at The Mane Room Jasmine Colby and Katie Millett said that they are ready to go too.

“We’ve been getting lots of calls,” said Colby. “We will reduce our traffic by about 50% for now. Maintaining safety is our top priority. And we want to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the restrictions.”

“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Millett. “We’re nervous, and it’s not about getting sick. We want to make sure that our customers are happy and feel safe.”

At Roxy’s Cuts Plus Family Haircare in Oxford, Roxy Weymouth and Nancy Weymouth are anxious to serve their clients. But the small size of the salon means that they will have to scale business way back.

“We can only accommodate one of us with a client at a time,” said Roxy Weymouth. “It means that we will alternate days so that only one is working at a time.”

Weymouth said that she is also leaving ample time for cleaning between customers at first.

“For haircuts, I am blocking out 90 minutes total. A cut takes a half hour and I’m giving myself a good 60 minutes to make sure I can properly sanitize the station.”

Thomas said that it will be different for clients. Everyone must wear a face covering. There is no reception and clients are limited to the space their stylist works in. But she welcomes the return to whatever normal she can manage.

“I’ve never gone this long without seeing my clients,” Thomas said. “In 43 years, I’ve never not worked. It’s been frustrating.”

Thomas said that none of the three stylists at Hair and Company were able to secure unemployment while the business was closed. Ironically, she won’t be able to file for it until tomorrow when she is open.

“I’ve never done unemployment. I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I finally just managed to get my application taken care of, but now I have to file. I will be working 7:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day. I’m not even going to have the time. But I need the retroactive pay. I paid all my April bills, utilities and rent, even though I’ve had zero income.”

 


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