Just juggling the hair color, the scissors and the comb while offering consolation and support to a talkative client defies most people’s talents.
PLYMOUTH – Juggling the hair color, the scissors and the comb while offering consolation and support to a talkative client defies most people’s talents. Add a mask, a face shield, a six-foot distancing requirement, and the issue of where to park your kids while you work and you have a pretty good idea of what many hair stylists face when things open back up after May 25.
Maree Perrotta, stylist and manager of Plymouth’s James Joseph Salon at 130 Colony Place has a lot on her mind these days as she approaches the coming week when the salon reopens May 26. She said she’ll be making sure the governor’s guidelines about reopening are followed to the letter.
Customers will be seen by appointment only, and will need to wait in their cars until a salon staff member texts them to come in for their appointment. Stylists will be wearing masks and face shields in addition to the gloves many wear, and the customer must wear a face mask as well, covering the nose and the mouth. The salon space is large enough for Perrotta to have up to six stylists working a shift, she said, and still maintain the six foot social distancing requirement. Customers will pay for the service over the phone in advance, eliminating the need to handle credit cards or cash.
With the governor holding off on opening daycare centers, Perrotta said, staffing is going to be tricky, with so many stylists like her who are young mothers. While the governor has allowed for emergency daycare facilities, she said many don’t feel comfortable dropping their kids off at unknown or unfamiliar entities.
“I can’t imagine taking my 4-year-old, who has already been through so many changes, to a new child care system and a new atmosphere during all of this,” she added. “I’m trying to wait for his childcare and preschool to reopen.”
Daycare centers have been ordered to remain closed until June 29, with only state-sanctioned emergency child care programs in operation
Sanitation stalls have replaced the coffee and refreshments table in the salon as Perrotta and other hair stylists adjust to a new way of doing business that seems leagues away from the relaxed and cheerful salon atmosphere they loved.
“I’m grateful that people still want to come in and get their hair done, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity and to have my job and so many clients calling and patiently waiting to come in, but it is overwhelming and stressful,” she said. “A lot of us got into the industry because it was a ‘make-you-feel-good.’ It’s completely different now.”
For Joan Lyons of 3 Daughters Jewelry Apparel and Gifts at 114 Water St., the reopening guidelines are somewhat confusing. Gov. Baker held off on reopening retail shops to walk-in traffic until Phase II, which is set to begin in approximately three weeks if all goes according to plan and barring spikes in virus cases and deaths. But Lyons said it’s unclear to her and many retailers how to count that three week span forward. Is it three weeks from the beginning or the end of phase one? Suffice it to say, retail shops should open sometime in June.
Some retailers are bridling over this restriction, noting that big box stores like Target and Walmart that sell many of the same types of items as small specialty shops have been allowed to operate throughout the crisis. Many small retail business owners say the restrictions are putting them out of business, while big business continues to thrive.
Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst expressed his frustration with the governor’s reopening plan Monday, suggesting that the state has a history of hurting retail. In a press release, Hurst writes:
“Massachusetts has been one of the most hostile states in the nation toward small retailers. States like NY — that were harder hit by the pandemic — worked with small retailers to help them operate and continue to do so, with openings at the end of next week. Other than Massachusetts, retailers will be open for business across New England this Memorial Day Weekend. Unfortunately, that is not the case here in Massachusetts.”
And, while the governor suggested that curbside pickup of retail items begin May 25, many retailers have been implementing this sales strategy for weeks.
Retail stores like 3 Daughters already have a strong online presence with order fulfillment as well as a curbside operation for those who want to pick up items at the store without getting out of their cars. They simply park, call the store and a clerk delivers the items to their trunk. Lyons said she’s having Plexiglass installed to protect store workers and customers, and will be required to limit the number of customers who can enter the store so six-foot social distancing can be maintained. This will mean stationing a worker at the door as a gate-keeper, so to speak, ensuring that customer limits are observed. As with hair salons, shopkeepers will be required to wear masks and so will customers.
“We’ll provide hand sanitizer and we’ll have gloves available,” Lyons added.
A member of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce’s Recovery Task Force, Lyons said she and other businesses will be posting signs in their windows clearly stating what’s expected of customers and businesses during this time, per the governor’s directive.
The hardest pill to swallow is, perhaps, the inventory, Lyons said. Many if not all Plymouth retail stores purchased extra large inventory in 2019 in anticipation of the town’s 400th anniversary, which was originally predicted to attract up to 10 million tourists. Retailers must buy a year in advance, she explained, to maintain sales stock. A year ago, everything looked fine. Many are now horrified that they may not be able to sell this stock, and stand to lose significant income as a result.
“The question is: ‘How do I buy enough, but not too much for all those people?’” Lyons said. “This is devastating to many businesses. I beefed up what I bought, and now I’m sitting on all this inventory, which is really scary.”
For Jaxx Monroe of Sanctuary Tattoo Emporium at 317 Court St., a tentative June 10 reopening date will be a welcome change from renovations and the intensive cleaning he’s been giving his tattoo parlor for the past nine weeks.
Monroe said he’s repainted, sanitized, redecorated and scrubbed down his location to make things easier to clean and the new process more streamlined for his customers and artists.
“It’s a new world, and we have to be even more diligent than we were,” he said.
Like Perrotta, Monroe said his business is now by appointment only with no walk-ins allowed.
“Everyone has to wear a mask all day long in the shop,” Monroe added. “We wear gloves anyway and were sanitizing before this happened. We lived with Lysol wipes anyway. It’s a regular routine for us. Now, we’ll be even more diligent.”
Customers will have to wear masks as well. And Sanctuary Tattoo Emporium’s free snacks like popcorn will disappear for the time being.
Monroe said his business was hurt by the shutdowns, but he and co-owner Kristen Olivier have carefully managed their money over the years, so the crisis hasn’t been catastrophic.
The phone is now ringing off the hook, he added, with many clients anxious to book a tattoo. Those appointments begin June 10.
From the tone of his voice, this has been any other spring for Monroe, who defies notions that a pandemic has the word panic in it for a reason. He grew up poor in South Boston, he said, selling tomatoes door to door as a child before helping his parents with their flea market and, later, second-hand store.
“I had no choice but to be upbeat,” he added.
That may be true of the rest of the business community as it shoulders the new guidelines and restrictions in an economic crisis that, so far, has no end game in sight.