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Easing of hair salon and barbershop rules don’t go far enough for many businesses to open

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Christy Fleming
Christy Fleming
The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

Kristina Borsello won’t be opening her beauty bar on Friday

Once word spread on Tuesday that salons in Delaware would be allowed to open under limited conditions this Friday, customers began calling their regular spots to enquire about appointments.

But feedback from four local salon owners shows that the slight easing of restrictions won’t make a difference for their businesses, and none of the four plan to open yet.

Governor John Carney announced yesterday that hair salons could reopen on Friday with strict precautionary measures in place. Salons may open only to see “essential workers” and are limited to two customers per hour – no matter the footprint of the salon.

Additionally, the front door must remain locked to prevent walk-ins, and salons must arrange to leave 15 minutes between appointments for proper cleaning.

Related: Department stores, small businesses and salons can open on Friday with limitations

Randie Currie owns Currie Hair, Skin and Nails

Randy Currie owns Currie Hair, Skin and Nails, with three locations in Pennsylvania, including Kennett Square and Glen Mills, and one in Delaware – at the Wilmington Riverfront. He said the restrictions were still too great to make it worthwhile to open his businesses.

“I’m really disappointed because we can’t operate under those conditions. We can’t book two people an hour and have only two people cutting hair and only doing frontline emergency workers. We can’t even do our clients… And that would cause a riot” among his existing customer base, he said.

 

Currie said within minutes of yesterday’s announcement, he had a flood of requests for appointments.  “I’ve been getting emails all afternoon from clients in Wilmington and our Glen Mills location to see if we can take them down to the Riverfront because we can now open,” he said.

Currie had to explain that he has no plans to open yet. The Currie salon on Justison Street in Wilmington sees 300 customers per week. At the Glen Mills location, the number is four times that.

“Unless we hear something completely different, we’re not going to open. Under the rules that he [Carney] put out, I also think it’s ridiculous to say Tuesday that you can open Friday,” said Currie.

Beauty Bar employs too many staff to make limitations work

Kristina Borsello needed only a quick conversation with her husband Mark Borsello to decide that they would not reopen her Wilmington salon on Friday. The two are co-owners of the Beauty Bar by Kristina Ruggerio, which opened last summer right off of the Augustine Cutoff.

Kristina Borsello opened her new Beauty Bar in Wilmington last June

The owners cited too many hurdles and no realistic path toward earned income for the reasons they would not turn on the lights this week under the limited reopening plan.

While the Beauty Bar has 10 stylists on staff, they have just as many who offer makeup applications, skincare treatments and spa services. Kristina says that limiting her services to only to cutting and styling for two clients per hour is not financially viable.

“We were looking at it like trying to be hopeful. But if they sit here and tell us that we have to abide by those guidelines until maybe August or September? I don’t see how anybody is going to survive,” said Kristina Borsello.

She added, “They’re telling us that we can barely take two clients at a time. But we’re expected to open and spend our money on overhead, pay your employees, but barely even bring in any income — what’s the point?”

Related: New beauty bars arrive just in time for the holiday party season

The open-ended nature of the limited opening also gives Kristina concern.

“We were trying to find the silver lining. But it turns back to  — how long are we going to have to do go by these guidelines? Because it can’t work. If that’s if that’s how we have to live and be in business for the next couple months, it just can’t work.”

 

Her husband Mark added, “Unless we can service all of our clients then we don’t plan to reopen.

“Why should we be able to service essential workers only — the ones that are out there potentially being exposed? It makes no sense to open just under that mandate. If we’re going to open, we’re just going to open full tilt. It’s almost aggravating to me that they would say that, ‘We’re willing to allow you to subject yourself to this, but you’re not going to make any money, and you’re going to put your employees at risk, but we get our hair done.’ No, thank you.”

The Borsellos and Currie also said that their staffs aren’t ready to come back to work under the plans outlined yesterday.

Mark Borsello said, “Our employees are collecting so much money on unemployment that they don’t want to lose that benefit to come back to make peanuts and subject themselves to risk.,” he said.

 

Blo Blow Dry Bar owner says some reopening restrictions seem arbitrary

Kerry Welsh is a franchise owner of Blo Blow Dry Bar in Greenville. She says the limit to essential employees and only two per hour doesn’t make sense.

“The limit of two is arbitrary. So if you have an 8000 square foot facility versus an 800 square foot facility, then obviously the restrictions should be different, very similar to a retail store or a for a restaurant, right?”

Kerry Welsh owns Blo Blow Dry Bar in Greenville.

Welsh is in a unique position of being able to evaluate the reopening plans of Delaware against other states where Blo Blow Dry Bars also exist and have started to reopen.

She says Delaware is the only state with a limited clientele who are allowed to return to her business.

“In our national network of blow dry bars, no other locations have restrictions on who they can serve, a numerical limit on the number of clients. Instead, restrictions are measured in distance or daily reporting of employees’ temperatures. They were shocked to hear what Delaware was mandating — especially that hair services were safe for essential workers but not for other clients.

“So I think the combination of the restrictions in place, together with the concerns of my employees and concerns from a profitability perspective that it’s just not worth opening at this time,” said Welsh.

Related: Small businesses struggle to survive in catastrophic environment

 

Saroukos Hair Company remains closed temporarily

Four years ago Stephanie Saroukos proudly opened Saroukos Hair Company on Lancaster Ave in Wilmington. Now with a staff of two plus herself, Saroukos has built up her client base to more than 400.

Stephanie Saroukos owns Saroukos Hair Company in Wilmington

Like other small business owners, she planned to participate in last night’s Town Hall Zoom meeting with Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long hoping to get an idea of when she would be able to reopen.

She learned shortly before the call that she had the opportunity to reopen in three days.

“I think it’s an interesting choice to pick hair salons before a lot of other businesses to be the ones to reopen — because of the physical proximity that we have.

“I’ve read the guidelines and it’s going to be a challenge for any salon, I think, to adhere to the guidelines,” she said.

Saroukos says the size of her salon would make it easier than larger salons to adapt to the reopening guidelines, but she maintains now is still not the best time for her business to welcome its customers back.

“My salon is small. And to be honest, we do keep our door locked regularly, and we usually have more than two clients in at once. So it wouldn’t be totally out of the ordinary to follow some of the guidelines. But the biggest guideline that we’ve all been given of social distancing — there’s not really a way around that for us,” she said.

 

In a letter to her customers which she emailed them last night, Saroukos wrote, “While we are anxious (probably even more so than you) to get back to the salon, we ultimately cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our clients, our employees, and their families.”

Randie Currie offers salon reopening plan to Governor Carney

Currie said that he offered “a more sensible and comprehensive” opening plan to Governor Carney earlier this month. He says he sent a letter to Carney outlining several steps his salon would take to try to ensure the safety of both his staff and customers so his business could welcome back all customers.

“I sent him [Carney] a letter saying that we’ve been preparing for this for weeks. We’re having Plexiglas glass installed between shampoo bowls, masks and face guards, and we have a whole agenda for clients: They have to wear masks to the salon, and they can’t bring their kids. We’re going to operate half staff and have each employee six feet away from each other. And we’re going to increase the hours of the store from 60 to 93, hours a week – 8 am to 8 pm – to space out our clients.”

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