CLAREMONT — The reopening of local hair salons may not mean “business as usual,” but there sure has been business, according to Claremont hair professionals.
“I opened on Monday and there’s just been a flood of customers, like the dam opened up,” said Sharon Dickey, owner of Salon 24 on Opera House Square.
Peggy Davis, owner of Reflections of You at 41 Pleasant St., said that she and her fellow stylists have what feels like a month’s worth of appointments already scheduled.
Davis employs a second stylist, Jordan Castellano, and shares the space with two independent stylists: Kylie Russell, owner of Kylie’s Kreations, and Bethany Cheddar, owner of Hair.
All the stylists, including Dickey, expressed appreciation for being able to work again and for their customers, who they say have been incredibly patient and understanding about the new health and safety regulations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Under this phase of New Hampshire’s economic reopening plan, hair salons and barber shops are only allowed to provide haircuts and root-coloring touchups.
“Gov. Sununu wants us to keep clients in the chair for the least amount of time as we can,” Dickey said. “So they’re [only] giving us an hour per client. So colors and highlights that used to take up to two or two-and-a-half hours aren’t allowed [yet].”
Another challenging restriction for all the stylists is not being allowed to use blow dryers.
Dickey said she understands the rationale against blowdryers, because they spread airborne particles, they are an important tool in the styling process.
“I feel like I’m not finishing my job if I don’t blow dry,” Dickey said. “So I think that's really hard right now for stylists.”
Dickey said she has ordered a rollerball, an alternative salon tool that dries the hair with heat.
The salons also need to be mindful about limiting their occupancy to to 10 people or less.
The stylists at Reflections of You said they have to be particularly vigilant because of this rule, since each of them serving a client simultaneously puts them near the legal maximum.
Because of restrictions, most salons in New Hampshire are encouraging scheduling appointments and for clients to wait outside the salon until their stylist is ready for them. Clients are required to wear masks, as well as the stylists.
The stylists also follow a careful regimen to sanitize and disinfect all equipment between each appointment. Dickey said it takes her about 15 minutes between clients to wipe down surfaces with disinfectant cloths and wash and sterilize utensils.
But Dickey said that hair professionals typically practiced strict sanitary practices, so these additional ones align neatly with their existing aim.
“That’s part of our job, keeping clients safe,” she said.
The stylists said their vigilance toward following health and safety regulations is also to protect themselves.
“If one of us gets sick, we would have to shut the whole salon down,” Davis said.
As an additional precaution, the stylists at Reflections of You have their customers fill out a waiver, confirming that they have not recently had symptoms associated with COVID-19 or a flu-like virus.
“All of our customers have been incredibly understanding,” Russell said. “Everyone has had great communication and we’re all working to stay on the same page.”
Though some restrictions will lift in Phase Two of New Hampshire’s plan, Dickey said she expects some regulations, such as space capacity limits, to become part of “the new normal.”
COVID-19 is a serious issue to Dickey. On Wednesday morning her niece’s husband, at 60, died due to complications from the virus. She expressed concern about citizens entering stores or other businesses, including her own, without wearing a protective mask.
“It’s not for their benefit, but the person standing next to them,” she said. “You don’t know what that person beside you has. They could have a suppressed immune system, diabetes or whatever.”
Despite her concerns about the virus, Dickey said she felt it was an appropriate time to reopen her business. Whether salons opened now or later, the difference between containing or spreading the virus will come down to people practicing healthy and safe habits.
“It’s not going to make a difference [when] we open because the CDC guidelines are always going to stay the same,” she said. “As long as I keep the guests safe with what I can do to keep them safe.”