As stylists return to work, they have little choice but to raise prices

Losing work for nine weeks has cost them plenty; they now face higher costs to operate

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They are smiling here, but the past nine weeks have seen lots of frustration and tears for this group of hair stylists and salon owners from Red Bay and Belmont. Clockwise from left are Suzan Howard, Emma’s Salon in Red Bay; Tina Webb, Webb Salon & Massage Therapy in Belmont; B.J. Walters, B.J.’s Haircessities in Golden, and Sharon Stacy, Sassy Scissors in Red Bay. News photo/Jason Collum

Salons across Alabama and Mississippi began reopening this week after a long nine weeks of exile. And just like the customers they have begun seeing again, the logistics of reopening for business is a hairy situation.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s updated Safer at Home orders released last week allowed salons and gyms to reopen, but at limited capacity and with a slew of sanitation requirements. That means limiting clientele and appointments, and additional costs for stylists and salons who have not had income for nine weeks, unless they were able to receive unemployment benefits. For many, though, who are considered self-employed, unemployment wasn’t an option.

Among the many new requirements stylists are facing are changing aprons between every client, limiting the number of people and customers in the salon at any time and maintaining at least six feet of distance between clients, sanitizing surfaces constantly, and changing clothes before they go home. Wearing new gloves for every client will also be mandatory. And, should items such as Clorox wipes remain hard to find, salons will find the time between clients being lengthened, which will also cut down on the number of clients that can be seen in a day’s time.

“When we spray our chairs down it takes 10 minutes to dry,” said Suzan Howard, of Emma’s Salon in Red Bay. “If you use a wipe it only takes two minutes, but you can’t find them anywhere right now.”

These changes, in an industry already well-versed in measures of sanitation, are hiking costs that salon owners and stylists have no choice but to pass along.

“I bought a box of foil (sheets) and I paid $12 for before this all started,” said B.J. Walters, of B.J.’s Haircessities just across the state line from Red Bay on Hwy. 23. “It has now gone up to $18.99 a box. That’s just one of the things we’re having to deal with.”

Changing aprons between each client means stylists will have to invest in more of those, too, and those aren’t cheap. Walters, who went five weeks before seeing any unemployment benefits, said the professional aprons she has been using cost about $50 each. Now, in orderto have more aprons and with an eye toward limiting expenses, she had resorted to purchasing a couple of kitchen aprons to make do temporarily.

In Belmont, Tina Webb has not seen any unemployment or stimulus benefit at all. That has meant a halt to renovation work she had been doing on her building. She said fortunately the rent she receives from other businesses in her building had helped in covering the mortgage, but between her and her husband being out of or limited on work, money was extremely tight.

Still, none of stylists, including Sharon Stacy of Sassy Scissors in Red Bay, want to pass along the costs of what they have endured to their clients. But they don’t have much choice.

The four stylists are among several who have said they have no choice but to increase prices around 15 percent to cover the new costs of doing business.

“We hate to because we know a lot of people have been in financial hardships,” Stacy said. “This is not our choice; this is beyond our control.”