Even though she works with a face shield and her shop is capped at half capacity, Maria Perez feels like the Cheshire Barber Shop is returning to normal.
“Business was booming the first month. I feel like I cut everybody’s hair in the world in the first month and now everything is a little back to normal,” she said.
The state allowed haircutters to reopen June 1.
After months of not being able to get haircuts, Perez said her clients seemed like a throwback to the 1970s, when long hair was more common.
For hairstylists the new normal includes having to cut around face masks worn by customers, single use capes, closing waiting areas, requiring customers to make appointments and increased sanitation of equipment and surfaces.
“It’s a pain, it’s not easy,” Perez said. “But at the same time I was so ready to go back to work and so grateful that I was going back to work, that I told my customers if I had to wear a suit of armor, I would wear a suit of armor to go back to work.”
Perez also takes the temperature of each customer with a touchless thermometer the Cheshire Fire Department gave out to local businesses. She was able to acquire extra masks and face shields from the Chesprocott Health District.
The flood of customers at reopening prompted Salon Nathaniel in Meriden to extend its hours. Owner Nathaniel Bottone said even operating at half capacity, the salon had around 50 percent more business last month than in June 2019.
Since stylists already receive training in sanitation during certification, Bottone said getting used to masks was the biggest hurdle.
“We were already used to the sanitation protocols,” he said.
Keeping up with the demand for equipment and sanitizing supplies and operating at half capacity has forced some shops to increase prices. They are also hurt financially because open time between appointments is no longer filled with walk-ins.
“There’s much more costs that we never had before. You always had a cost, you had your sanitizing products, lights; now you have a lot more with the disinfectants, laundry,” said Louie Lumani, owner of Louie’s Barber Shop in Southington, who increased the price of haircuts by $3.
His shop saw a rush of customers the first few weeks of June, but things have calmed in July. Without events to spruce up for, Lumani believes people will be waiting longer between cuts.
Dino Fernicola, owner of Dino's Modern Barbershop in Wallingford, estimated each barber went from seeing between 15 to 20 clients a day to around 10 to 15. He increased the price of haircuts by $2.
“Your output is changed completely in terms of how many haircuts you do in a day,” he said.
Customers have felt reassured by the precautions in place and have accepted wearing a mask and paying a little extra.
“It was humbling. The one thing I can say is how generous our customers were and how grateful they were to have us back and they showed it with their generosity,” Fernicola said.
Karen Poltronieri, manager of Serenity Salon and Day Spa in Wallingford, said her staff and customers felt comfortable returning for haircuts and nail treatments, which the state permitted again starting June 17. Staff members wear a face mask and either a shield or goggles for eye protection.
“The restrictions are there for a reason so we just found a way to work with it and find a way so the guest still has a wonderful experience,” she said.