Hair salons, barbershops, and other personal service providers in Skagit County are doing everything they can to prepare to reopen safely under Phase 2.
Many are making costly investments in new supplies and equipment, though concerns linger over safety.
On Friday, Skagit County applied to move to Phase 2 in the state’s Safe Start plan, after meeting public health criteria.
Under Phase 2, salons and barbershops must keep client occupancy to 50% or lower, maintain at least 6 feet between stations, supply employees with face coverings and stagger shifts, among other requirements.
Clients must self-screen for symptoms before arriving, wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before starting a service and are urged to wear face coverings, according to the requirements. Guests, with the exception of children under 16, are not permitted.
The rules also apply to tattoo parlors, nail salons and other personal service providers.
“We’re doing everything we can think of to make it the most safe atmosphere for clients,” said Amber Guidry, owner of Serenity Salon & Spa in Burlington.
The business has taken additional steps, such as the purchase of two new air purifiers to capture virus particles and disinfect the air with ultraviolet light, Guidry said.
Clients should be prepared to meet the new requirements, she said.
“If you would like your hair done under Phase 2, these are the rules we have to follow,” Guidry said.
As of last week, Guidry said she had more than 120 appointments booked.
Not all businesses plan to reopen right away during Phase 2.
In Mount Vernon, Aaron Kaehr of Hair & Body Mechanix said being unable to socially distance during services such as haircuts and shaves was a concern for him and employees. The barbershop should have access to the personal protective equipment used in health care settings.
“We don’t really feel safe right away; we want to see how things progress before we jump into the fire,” he said.
His business has been able to withstand the shutdown with the help of an emergency savings account, he said. But he knows other businesses may feel pressure to reopen for financial reasons.
“How do you weigh your safety against needing to pay the bills?” Kaehr said. “I totally understand the push to get back. There’s not a good answer for anyone.”
In Sedro-Woolley, Country Chique Salon got a break on rent from its landlord, but that relief ends in June, said owner and esthetician Kimmie Leger.
“If we can’t open in June, we’ll be struggling,” she said. “We’re putting all our money into making it a safer place.”
The salon will have to raise prices to cover the costs of items such as masks and hand sanitizer, and specialized equipment such as a new manicure table with built-in ventilation.
The two-month shutdown forced some businesses to close their doors for good.
At least two salons in Skagit County — Three Little Birds Salon & Boutique in Burlington and Monroe’s Salon in Sedro-Woolley — announced permanent closures.
Leger said her salon will take on two stylists from Monroe’s Salon, including Kelsey Kallerman and Kallerman’s mother, a stylist at Monroe’s Salon of 37 years.
“They need a new home and family,” she said.
Salons provide more than just a haircut, but also are a place for people to connect, Leger said.
“My fear is that depression is going to skyrocket, and right now we can’t be here for people,” she said.
Even as businesses are approved to reopen, there are many unknowns.
Hannah Krutsinger, a freelance makeup artist based in Stanwood, said she wondered how quickly her work for film and television, and weddings and other events, would restart.
In the meantime, she is stocking up on single-use makeup brushes and completed a beauty industry certification course on infection control.
Due to clients being unable to wear masks during makeup applications, Krutsinger said she is looking into plastic face shields for added protection.
One of the hardest parts is knowing that someone could have the virus and not show symptoms, she said.
“I could have someone in my chair who doesn’t feel sick and who was exposed to the virus,” Krutsinger said. “I can only do so much to protect myself and my clients.”