Texas hair salons joined restaurants and movie theaters in reopening on Friday. They’re opening with safety and cleaning protocols that will affect how much profit those in the industry will make at first.
I was Jessica Hicks’ first official client when she reopened her salon Friday. She canceled my last appointment in mid-March because she has an infant at home and decided it was time to prioritize safety. “That’s probably when I stopped, cause I canceled that one,” Hicks told me as she looked back on her calendar. “So then it would have been Februrary 14th. That’s when it was, cause, March 19th we canceled you. Yep. So, gosh I haven’t worked in almost 2 months.”
I never got desperate enough to try to trim my own short hair, but I nervously updated my “highlights” about a month ago.
Lindsey Owen drove 80 minutes from Abilene and may have been even more excited to see Jessica than I was. “My husband took my extensions out for me about two weeks ago,” Owen said he used tiny pliers for the job. “It was fine. He’s used to helping me out in that area if need be. So that was interesting.”
It was a bit quieter than usual inside The Basement Salon on Friday. Alexa was still alternating between country and pop, but there were just a few stylists and clients in the chairs. The modern chairs and faux leather love seat sat empty around a bare farmhouse coffee table. And the mimosas and coffee bar are gone. “We had to remove all magazines, anything you could touch. Our waiting area-they don’t want anyone sitting in the area. That’s why we can’t do drinks. As much cross contamination that we can stop-we’re gonna try,” Hicks said.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation gave a list of rules, and another list of recommendations, like not accepting walk-in clients or using hair dryers. Hicks is not worried about reopening, she says especially because most of Brownwood’s cases are in local nursing homes.
“It feels a little ridiculous to me, but if it makes my clients feel better, I’m gonna do it. And then the no blow drying is mostly gonna give us time to sanitize everything in between each client.”
Lindsey Owen says she and her husband are being very careful about going out in Abilene, getting take-out or curb-side delivery, and those guidelines do make her feel more comfortable. “I’m not worried, but I’m definitely cautious,” Owen said. As she rinsed her hair, Hicks asked if Owen had been nervous about coming to the salon. “No. I knew there were guidelines. And I feel like it’s not going to be so crowded in here.”
Out of eight stylists, only three had clients first thing Friday morning. Hicks says her other stylists will get back to work this week. Amid the snips and shampooing and packs of extensions, the chatter revolved around COVID-19, missing restaurants, wearing masks, zoom calls with teachers, and how surprised the stylists were that Governor Abbott allowed salons to reopen so quickly.
“My phone just started blowing up with text messages with clients trying to get in and sending me messages that we’re open Friday,” Hicks told me while trimming my layers. “And this was on Tuesday. So it was very sudden. And we had just heard it was going to be June 1st. So I was not prepared.”
But she was excited. Hicks says it’s been tough, as the owner of a salon, worrying about the people who rely on her business for their income. She applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but the salon didn’t qualify since her staff is considered self-employed. “We did get disaster unemployment,” Hicks explained. “But some girls are just now getting it! So we applied when we closed down. And no one’s really gotten paid until a week ago.”
It’s going to take Hicks and her staff a while to catch up financially. She says they usually double-books clients, but that’s against the rules too. She says it’ll now take her eight hours to earn what she used to make in four. But she stresses she’s just glad to be back at work.