As governor releases re-opening guidelines, salon owners say it will be a while before doors open
Like many other businesses in the state, personal care services, like salons and barbershops, have been hit hard by coronavirus mandates. Relief could be in sight though, as the Governor's office releases a list of guidelines that sets the pace for these types of businesses to re-open safely.
"I made a promise to my team today that we would not open until we had the supplies that we needed and that we all felt comfortable and safe in opening," said Jen Bersch. Bersch is the owner and a stylist at Salon Davinci. While the governor's office says certain businesses can re-open as early as Friday, she says it's unlikely shops will actually open that early.
"Once you make a mistake and you get infected or you infect someone else, there's no going back from that, so I think that's just the concern that we have here," said Bersch "We are already dealing with customers who have allergies and other health issues going on."
Bersch says it's going to be a long road ahead as she formulates a plan that adheres to the new guidelines, and gathers the right equipment and PPE for her clients and staff. The
includes limiting the number of occupants in the salon, keeping a distance of six feet between stations, and adhering to strict sanitation procedures.
"It's doable," said Bersch. "It's just, once you get the supplies, then you have to set up the system-- and it's my responsibility to create that flow and that system and teach that to my staff. So, ultimately, that takes time."
Bersch said she initially had to let go of her entire staff when she closed shop on March 13. She says even after re-hiring them, it's going to be difficult for her employees who will be making less than what they're used to with less clients on a given day.
"If you're only going to be able to get so many clients in a day, you're probably going to get about half of what you were making, you've now come off of unemployment, but that is the purpose-- if I understand it correctly, of the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, which I did apply for," said Bersch. "Right now I'm just waiting to see if I get in on that second wave of funding, but that should give us funds that will supplement anything that they're not making."
When she does eventually re-open, Bersch says, they won't be taking walk-ins, like usual. She says the first priority is re-scheduling the hundreds of appointments that had to be canceled. Even as clients clamor to get back into the salon chair, Bersch says safety remains the number one focus, and root touch ups can wait.
"It was really nice to have my client respond with, 'thank you for reminding me that there are people on the front lines that are risking their lives and my roots are going to be ok.' So it was like, yeah, everything's going to be ok. We're all in this together," said Bersch as she pointed to her own roots, "We're all in this together!"
Like many other salon owners, Bersch is waiting to make any further decisions until she hears more from the Alaska Board of Hairdressers and Barbers, which is set to discuss its own guidance on work and safety requirements in a meeting set for Friday.