The calls started coming in soon after The Rusty Razor Barber Shop reopened on May 1.

Regular customers were eager to get in for haircuts, and so were people from other states who had never been to the shop in Kittery. One person wanted to drive six hours from Connecticut for a haircut.

Brittany Horst, co-owner of the shop, turned everyone from Massachusetts and Connecticut away and has taken to checking IDs to make sure her customers are locals.

“We all are hoping everyone is doing everything they can to keep their community safe and to keep other communities safe. When you have someone who is willing to say ‘I don’t care, I need a haircut,’ it is unnerving,” Horst said. “It was definitely a shocking eye-opener that a haircut would be so important that you’d risk getting something or giving something to someone else just to have a haircut.”

Other barbers in York County say they have heard from many out-of-staters wanting to come to Maine for a haircut since barber shops and hair salons were allowed to reopen for business on May 1. Maine was the first state in New England to allow barber shops and hair salons to resume some services, and reports of an influx of customers from out of state led some workers in Maine shops to worry about the elevated risk of cutting the hair of people from states such as Massachusetts, where COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is more widespread.

Starting this week, New Hampshire followed Maine’s lead and allowed salons and barbers to reopen. Connecticut will allow salons to open on May 20. But, while the pressure on salons and barbers may soon ease, the reports of people coming from as far as Massachusetts and Connecticut for haircuts are a reminder of the risks Maine can face if the state reopens its economy more quickly than neighboring states that are dealing with bigger coronavirus outbreaks.


The announcement that Maine’s barber shops and hair salons would be among the first wave of businesses to reopen prompted the Boston Globe digital edition to publish a headline, “Let’s sneak away to Maine for haircuts. They’re starting to loosen some restrictions up there.” That stoked concern among Mainers about people violating the state’s standing order that out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Maine to prevent carrying the disease to communities here.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth and former Maine CDC director, took a screenshot of that Boston Globe headline and later posted it on Facebook. Her post was shared nearly 400 times and prompted dozens of comments, many from people concerned about people coming to Maine from coronavirus hot spots.

Brittany Horst, co-owner of The Rusty Razor Barber Shop in Kittery, takes only customers from Maine and the nearby Portsmouth, N.H., area, but she’s had plenty of requests from would-be customers much farther away. She said, “It was definitely a shocking eye-opener that a haircut would be so important that you’d risk getting something or giving something to someone else just to have a haircut.” Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

“With the pandemic raging to the south of us, it’s important our opening up doesn’t also open us up to the pandemic blowing in here,” Mills wrote.

Mills, the sister of Gov. Janet Mills, said this week that she hadn’t really worried about hair salons until she saw that headline because most people get their hair cut close to home.

“I said ‘Oh my goodness, people may really drive up,'” she said. “Having a haircut was the last thing I thought people would travel out of state for.”

To help hair salons reopen safely, the state released a checklist that outlines a number of precautions, from requiring stylists and customers to wear masks to taking customers by appointment only and restricting the number of people in the building. The checklist also requires barber shops and hair salons to ask customers a series of questions about possible coronavirus symptoms and whether they have been outside Maine in the past two weeks.


While the state’s guidelines for golf courses and fishing guides explicitly say that no one from out of state can play golf or hire a guide until they have quarantined for 14 days, there is no such language on the checklist for salons.

Kate Foye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said Gov. Mills’ April 3 executive order requires anyone entering Maine, resident or visitor alike, to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to visiting any business or conducting any activity. Enforcement of that order lies with law enforcement, not individual business owners, she said.

In the beach communities of coastal York County, locals have noticed – and complained about – an uptick in out-of-state license plates around town, both before and after the barber shops reopened. At Ramsdell’s Barber Shop, owner Scott Ramsdell has “a lot of people from out of state looking to come in and get a haircut,” but he turns them away, he said.

“They are coming in and saying they’re coming directly from Boston or Massachusetts and want to squeeze in a haircut, not even knowing they’re supposed to quarantine for 14 days,” he said. “Unfortunately, we do get a few people who lie. There’s no way for us to track if they quarantine or not. That part is tough. I never thought it would be that important, but I guess guys are willing to lie just to get a haircut.”

Ramsdell said the requirement that he take customers by appointment helps restrict out-of-state customers, but adjusting to no longer running a walk-in only business has been tough.

Rick Cardelo, who rents a chair at Lafayette Barber Shop & Shave Parlor in Kennebunk, has seen a steady stream of customers since the shop reopened on May 1. In the first few days, he got calls from people from out of state who wanted to book an appointment and he had to explain the 14-day quarantine requirement. Now, most of those people calling for appointments are from the shop’s regular customer base of year-round residents.


Cardelo said he has seen some of his regular summer customers, who tell him they came up earlier than normal to their summer homes to get out of areas with higher numbers of infections. He always asks how long they’ve been back.

“We’re taking them at their word that they’ve been up at their house locally from Massachusetts or New York for three weeks or a month,” he said.

In Sanford, Craig Grant has been busy since he reopened the Hair Extreme Barber Shop on May 4, but most of his customers have been regulars. He said he asks every customer if they’ve been out of Maine within the last 14 days and so far hasn’t had to turn anyone away. But Grant said he does worry about people coming to Maine for a haircut because it puts people at risk.

Horst, from the Kittery barber shop, said she’s been busy since the shop reopened, even if they are turning away people from away. The shop is booking appointments more than a week and a half out, and regular customers seem happy to be able to get their hair cut, she said.

“It is nice to know that in this time when everyone is feeling confused and scared and down and they can’t see their families, that we are giving them that tiny bit of normalcy,” she said. “We’re making them feel good again, even if it’s just for a couple minutes. They leave feeling better than when they got here.”

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