Relief is near for all the barbers and stylists who have been out of work for months.
The same can be said for their clients, who’ve been forced to tie up overgrown locks into ponytails, shove shabby hair under ball caps and make peace with gray hair that outgrew its artificial color.
Salons and barbershops across the state will be allowed to reopen at reduced capacity, beginning June 1.
Barbers, stylists and their clients must wear masks and services will be done by appointment only under restrictions that Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.
“My hair is the longest it’s been in 10 years,” said Cody Yard, a police officer and former Marine who typically gets a trim every few weeks.
As the weeks dragged on with salons and barbershops shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19, Yard debated a DIY head-shave. But he’s not a fan of the look, preferring a professionally done tight fade.
Before he gets back to work, barber Chris Pomeleo needs to find a new space for his Minneapolis shop, Prohibition Barbers. He lost his lease when he couldn’t pay the rent during the two-month shutdown.
He’s among the barbers and stylists eager to get back to work even if it means they have to adapt to new restrictions to keep themselves and their clients safe.
Reopening at 25% capacity will be rough, Pomeleo said. “But we all have to become accustomed to living with a little less right now,” he said. “If we need to cut it down dramatically to keep everyone alive and kicking, then we need to do it.”
He suspects, however, some may try to bend the rules. People have been out of work for two months and some clients are overly eager to get back in, he said.
While his shop had to be closed, he rejected numerous bribes from desperate clients who wanted a cut.
Barber Tom Ford, who owns Madison & Co., also turned down similar requests during the shutdown that kept him and his 20 employees in his three salons out of work.
“My people are eager to get back,” Ford said. “We have a boatload of people who need haircuts.”
Idled the last couple months, Ford and his staff spent the time “educating and re-educating” themselves in ways to safeguard themselves and clients from being infected by the virus.
“We normally sanitize workstations but [COVID-19] means extra sanitizing,” he said.
He and his staff will wear protective N95 masks. He also will wear a face shield. “It’s just an extra layer of precaution,” he said.
It’s also why he understands that some people may continue to forgo haircuts and other services that require close face-to-face interactions.
“But as an owner I can say we’re gearing up properly and responsibly,” Ford said.
At LV’s Barbershop in Minneapolis, the seven barbers will stagger their schedules so only three will work in the shop at any one time, allowing everyone to stay 6 feet apart, explained Ramiro Vazquez, who handles social media for the company. Clients will wait outside until their appointed time.
“We’re ready for the new normal,” he said.
David Wagner’s Juut Salon Spa will have expanded hours at his 10 salons in Minneapolis. Even before the governor’s announcement Wednesday, Wagner was preparing to reopen every other station in the salons to assure social distancing.
He has to determine if that will meet the capacity limit of 25% required for the June 1 opening. Eventually, salons and barbershops will be allowed to increase capacity to 50%.
Juut clients also will have their temperature taken and will have to sign a form, attesting they aren’t sick.
The hope is that these type of measures will help people feel comfortable returning to salons.
Anne Labovitz, a St. Paul artist whose hair has grown longer and more gray than she remembered, said she looks forward to that quiet moment of being in a salon and being cared for.
“It’s an intimate kind of care,” she said. “That’s what I’m missing.”
And she’ll be generous in her gratitude when she returns. “I care about the person who does my hair and their financial well-being,” she said. “So I’ll probably give them a really big tip.”