San Benito County remained off of the state’s COVID-19 watch list for about six weeks prior to July 13. During that time, personal care service providers were allowed to operate as long as they followed state guidelines. After investing in personal protective equipment and adjusting floor plans to achieve social distancing, several local businesses self-certified and opened their doors, only to close them.
Now they’re doing business outside.
“I don’t want to do it. It’s not practical, for me anyways,” said Cathleen Scott, a hairstylist for 29 years and owner of Attitudes and Images Salon in Hollister. “What about the weather? The cold, heat, especially our Hollister wind. Plus, I don’t have the space for outdoor work. Personal beauty services are ‘personal,’ that’s why they’re done inside or in a private setting, not on the sidewalks or streets. The liability has to be considered as well.”
Scott said that along with the go-ahead to perform services outside, she was also given a list of services that will not be performed outside.
“No chemicals services or any other services that require clients to go inside the salon,” she said. “And doing chemicals outside would not be practical. The heat can dry out color on the scalp when you need it to stay moist, and there are other factors to consider as well. So, this would limit me to just doing haircuts.”
Business was good for Scott when she was open from May 28 to July 11. She applied for a Small Business Administration grant but never heard back, though she was approved for a small Paycheck Protection Program loan.
During the first shelter-in-place order in March, Scott took a COVID-19 online certification course to prepare for reopening and came up with creative ways to reach her clients.
“I started delivering or having clients pick up (with no contact) color kits and beauty products,” she said. “This helped me make some income and still stay in touch with my clients and help clients maintain their hair.”
Scott’s client Rachel Masters bought one of the color kits, which included the color specific to her with a brush for self-application. Glad to have had the opportunity to have hair done again professionally even if it was with new regulations, Masters said, “Well it is what it is, this is the way things are till they find a cure or treatment for this thing. I think Cathleen does a really good job with the procedures she has in place.”
Scott will continue offering the same services she did when her business first closed its doors, adding, “Who knows, after I talk with the necessary agencies to see what permits I have to get to work outside, you may see me cutting hair on the sidewalk or street.”
Country Cuts owner Irma Huffman is already open and operating outside. The shop has been in San Juan Bautista since 1998.
“The rules are the same as when we opened after the initial close-down, except we need to go inside to disinfect everything,” Huffman said about deciding to do work outside. “Also, we use the disposable capes. We decided to open today [July 23] to give it a try.”
Opening, closing and now reopening “only outdoors” has personal care business owners and their clients feeling like they are on a rollercoaster.
Barbershop owner Omar Diaz will not be opening his Enfermo Kutz outside, but according to his website will be available for housecalls.
“I don’t really see the difference from us following the first steps they had originally gave us following procedures,” Diaz said. “I refuse to demoralize my business by cutting up outside on a tent while still having to pay my lease rent. Not fair for me or my clients suffering from this bipolar climate which can get super hot at times.”
A licensed barber since 2014, Diaz said, “Barber school is mainly focused on client’s safety when it comes to sanitation control. We go to school for 1,600 hours and 75% or more is based on that area.”
Following the shelter-in-place order, Diaz received unemployment insurance benefits and said, “I was able to cover my business due to my landlord working with me on rent. Honestly he was very helpful and for that I was grateful. Very nice landlord.”
Diaz said he will relax and enjoy time with his family and try to apply for an SBA grant again because he did not receive one the last time he applied.
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