In March of 2020, local hair salons A Right Cut, Just My Style and High Country closed for business. “In that time, we just followed the guidelines of the governor and we got ourselves situated for reopening,” said A Right Cut owner Cheryl Bernard.
Bernard has owned her hair salon, A Right Cut, for 35 years. She recently celebrated the shop's anniversary on February 3. Bernard also shares her space in Waitsfield with Elaine Eurich, who owns Just My Style hair salon. Eurich started renting a salon chair from Bernard about five years ago, but still uses her own business name.
To transition to mid-pandemic business, Bernard and Eurich purchased an air purifier, extra capes, sanitizing products, and masks when preparing for reopening in July.
“We haven’t skipped a beat since we opened. We are doing everything we are supposed to do,” Bernard said. During a haircut, customers have to keep their masks on, and they must wear a mask that goes over the ears, and not over the head. Eurich said that cutting someone's hair when they have a mask on is not particularly challenging, “You just get good at it,” she said.
The process has also changed when scheduling an appointment. Before March, both salons took walk-ins. Now customers must set up an appointment over the phone. When clients come to get their haircut, they must call at the door. Then either Bernard or Eurich will come to greet the customer, take their temperature and sanitize their hands. Once inside, clients must sign a form and answer the questions: Have you been in contact with anyone with COVID-19? Do you have any symptoms? Have you been outside of the state in the last 14 days?
Because the shop is only 350 square feet, Bernard and Eurich are only allowing four people inside at a time. This means only one customer each, and no one else accompanying them. There is an exception for small children or anyone who cannot be left unaccompanied.
Bernard said that the changes they had to make were not challenging. “Being a cosmetologist, we are already very clean,” she said. One change was using a new cape for every customer, which resulted in more laundry. “It’s just a little bit more time,” added Bernard.
Bernard said that both businesses are busy now. But she thinks that a large part of their business can be attributed to new people in town. “A lot of my locals are still kind of hesitant, but there’s so much of an influx of new people in town,” said Bernard. Eurich said that during the summer, after they reopened, they were busy for three to four weeks. However, Eurich said “My summer was slower than usual.” She hopes that next summer will hit equilibrium and be steadier.
High Country in Waitsfield has also seen an influx of new clients during the pandemic. “I can’t even believe how many new clients I’m getting weekly,” said High Country owner Hillary Downing. Downing said her new clients consist mostly of people who moved to Vermont and bought a house during the pandemic. “We get new clients calling every day,” she said.
Regular High Country clients, on the other hand, are coming less often. “People are letting their color grow out,” said Downing.
At High Country, stylists don’t conduct temperature checks or COVID screenings. Instead, the salon keeps its customers safe by following state-sanctioned mask guidelines, sanitizing all surfaces between each client and working one stylist at a time.
“We have masks on at all times,” said Downing, who has recently started double masking. “In between every single client, I sanitize everything.”
One time, Downing even cut the hair of a client who was COVID positive. “The state of Vermont called me. I cut someone's hair who was COVID positive while sitting in my chair,” she said. After getting tested herself and receiving a negative result, Downing gained more confidence in the salon’s safety protocols. “I feel safe,” she said.
In order to accommodate all clients with only one stylist at a time, Downing has drastically changed her work hours. Now, instead of working regular hours five days a week, Downing works three days a week in long 11-plus hour shifts. “I’ve been working from 8 in the morning to 9 oclock at night to get my clients in,” said Downing.
While Downing enjoys her new schedule in terms of the weekday ski opportunities it affords her, she misses working with other stylists, and even seeing their clients. “I miss seeing the other girls! And I miss seeing all their clients! I miss seeing all those people and hearing about their families, children and grandkids. It’s really lonely working by yourself.”
Finally, Downing urges those looking to get their hair done at High Country to be patient. “The phone rings during the day and I can’t always answer it. There’s not three of us here to answer it. But I always check the messages at the end of the day.”
A message was left at Miss Lissa’s hair salon in Waitsfield. Her voicemail says that she is not accepting walk-ins or new customers at this time.