As the state progresses into the governor’s Stage 2 of reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak, salons, barbershops and other personal-care services are permitted to reopen, but with a lot of new safety measures and protocols in place.
Personal care businesses have been closed since mid-March due to the virus, but those businesses have been itching to reopen and are excited to welcome back customers, albeit the experience being a little different.
Inside Dave’s Shave & Barber Parlor in Galloway Township, there’s a small chalkboard with the words “biggest game of cooties ever” written on it. It’s Dave Harrah and wife Jenn’s small way to find humor in the new normal.
The two co-own the barbershop.
Hand sanitizers are at the front door and barber stations. There are also disposable gloves and capes at every station. Reusable capes will be washed and sanitized on site after every use. The shop also has masks for customers who do not have one, Harrah said.
Stations also will get sanitized between every customer. The suede barber chairs are covered in thick plastic. Each chair is 6 feet apart. There are also large plastic partitions between each station.
The reception podium has a sneeze guard and there will be no-contact payment options. Cash payments will be dispensed in a small metal drawer and a touchscreen for card payments will be sanitized after every use.
“On the way in and out, we require hand sanitizer, and we have a forehead thermometer,” he said. “As long as they’re below 100.4 degrees, we are able to service them.”
Jenn Harrah, who is also a radiation therapist at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, said customers who had a fever can return for service after they have been fever free for 72 hours without fever-reducing medications.
“We also have an appointment app that sends out an automatic message whenever someone makes an appointment, informing them of our screener,” she said. “Whether they have a fever, cough, loss of taste or smell or they’ve been in contact with anyone that’s confirmed positive or suspected positive of COVID-19, we’re encouraging them to cancel their appointment if they answer ‘yes’ to any of those, and we’ll gladly reschedule them.”
At the barber stations, disposable razors will be used and all other tools will be sanitized after each use.
Both customers and staff members must wear a face mask at all times. A customer can only take his mask off for a beard shave, which requires the barber to wear both a face mask and a face shield, Harrah said.
Because of the shop’s computer system, all customers’ contact information is on file so contact tracing can be easily performed. The shop is also offering coffee and water, but it must be served by an employee.
Customers must also wait in their cars until the time of their appointment instead of coming in and sitting in the waiting area. Customers cannot bring guests with them into the shop.
One parent can accompany their child for a hair cut if the child is under 3. Children under 2 do not have to wear masks, Jenn Harrah said.
A common experience seen in barber shops is customers gathering in the waiting area and chatting while waiting for a shave. That experience, though, is on hold until further notice.
“It is sad,” Dave Harrah said. “That was one of the main reasons I wanted to open my own business, to kind of bring that old-timey feel back. People come in, hang out for a cup of coffee and just shoot the breeze with us for a little while. It’s nice to have an open-door policy, but unfortunately, for the time being, our open door is closed to nonappointment customers.”
Like Harrah, Rez Salama also said it’s upsetting to not be able to have that culture of customers waiting together and enjoying good conversation.
Salama owns Headliners Barbershop in Egg Harbor Township.
“But there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “We’re going to have to take these steps for right now. We are all worried about our health, so we have to take that precaution. Even though the world isn’t going back to normal, not 100%, we’re happy to be back at work.”
Salama said his shop will be appointment only until further notice. His business will have all the same protocols as Dave’s Shave, including service chairs 6 feet apart and temperature checks.
Appointments are also more spread out, with 10 to 15 minutes between each customer to sanitize the service chair and station.
“Instead of our barbers booking every 30-35 minutes, now it’s every 45 to 50 minutes,” he said. “So it’s not going to be as busy as we were before COVID-19.”
Similar measures are in place for all personal care services including massage parlors and hair and nail salons.
Patti Burns, owner of Color Room, a hair salon in Northfield, said customers must get their temperature checked upon arrival and answer the following questions when they make an appointment — if they’ve had a cough or a fever over 100 degrees in the last 14 days, if they have been around anyone showing signs or symptoms related to COVID-19 and if they’re living with anyone who is currently quarantined due to the virus.
When customers show up for their appointment they also must wash their hands. Ten extra minutes is also allotted between clients for sanitation. To allow for social distancing, Burns had to eliminate one hair station. The waiting area, with magazines that clients used to thumb through, is now gone.
“We’re a small salon, and we’re going to miss the mingling of the clients,” she said. “A client would come in, they pull up a chair, they talk to each other, they have a cup of coffee or a glass of Prosecco … they were hanging out. We’ve always been a common room, a small space with a lot of energy. Now we have to take it one step at a time, one haircut at a time, one foil at a time, but we’re doing it, and we’re all very excited to come back.”
With eliminating a hair station, spacing out clients and purchasing sanitation items, Burns said she had to increase pricing by about 15%.
“It’s our first increase since we’ve opened,” she said, adding that the salon opened in November 2016.
Her clients still can’t wait to come back, so much so that the salon is booked into August.
Appointments have been flowing in for Salama and Harrah as well. Harrah said his shop is almost fully booked the week of June 22. The owner is personally booked until July 3.
“I’m very pleased with the amount of people showing their support,” he said. “There are people who are nervous out there, but everyone’s in the same boat with wanting to get their hair cut.”