- May 28, 2020
Among the small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic shutdown, local salons and spas are anxious to open their doors and welcome back customers as Illinois enters Phase 3. Preparing for that event requires revamping many of the traditional elements of their operations, from the number of appointments they can manage to the setup of their waiting areas. Salon owners are determined to ensure an environment that will be safe and inspire confidence for both clients and employees.
Those returning clients will encounter a somewhat different experience at the salon in order to preserve safety and social distance. Following guidelines issued by the state, salons are requiring everyone onsite to wear face coverings and screening temperatures of employees and clients alike. Instead of waiting in the salon’s lounge area with a magazine, clients may be asked to wait outside or in their cars. The number of chairs and shampoo stations has been reduced to provide the requisite six feet of social distance spacing. Sanitizing equipment between uses will also become a regular part of salon operation.
Sarah Gorsky and Margo Snopek, owners of Lux Salon in downtown Northbrook, are swiftly filling their appointment slots to catch up with the more than 500 client sessions that had to be postponed over the shutdown. Although their revenue was cut by around 85 percent, strong relationships with their customers helped keep some funds coming in. “Clients have been so supportive,” notes Sarah, “participating in our contests, ordering products for weekly curbside pick-ups, and purchasing gift cards. They check in on us frequently to see how things are, especially since I am eight months pregnant and Margo just had a baby in April! Almost 100% of our clients rescheduled for June or July. We are of course going to proceed with extreme caution and continue to put the health and safety of our guests and our staff as top priority.”
The owners of Andreas Hogue Salon at Willow Festival have continued working behind the scenes since closing on March 16. They stayed connected to clients by personally delivering products, and took advantage of the time to invest in the future of the business. “With the help of a local high schooler, we built an amazing new website,” notes Ashley Hogue. “We interviewed dozens and hired three new people. We are building a pop-up salon as well.” In late May, they began the complicated process of contacting clients to reschedule appointments that had been lost over the preceding months. They also plan to strictly follow approved guidelines to ensure a safe environment for guests and team members.
At Ida’s Salon in downtown Northbrook, owner Michael Stellato turned to online product sales to sustain business through the closure. Partnering with Northbrook-based Premier Beauty, Ida’s website now includes a robust sales platform for dozens of hair, skin, body and makeup products. “This has been a great way to serve our clients who are concerned about social distancing, because the products ordered through the salon website are shipped directly from the supplier,” explains Michael. The salon team has also used the time for special training in preparation for reopening on May 29, with online COVID prevention certification courses and strategies that work with the salon’s unique layout. “After 35 years here, my staff has a relationship with our long-term clients. We want to go way over and above the state requirements to keep everyone safe.”
For Leslie Lee, owner of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, communication with clients has also been of vital importance during the shutdown, when almost 1,400 were lost over 11 weeks. “We are a membership model, so we’ve stayed in close contact with members. We’ve offered extra benefits to clients who have kept their memberships active during this time.” Hand & Stone offered curbside pickup for products to help clients maintain their skin care routine.
Like salons, Hand & Stone will make adjustments to procedures for customer safety. When they reopen on June 1, appointment times will be staggered and clients will receive text messages when they are invited to come into the lobby. Hospital-grade disinfectants will be applied to all treatment equipment between services, staff members will wear masks, and clients and employees will have their temperatures screened.
Leslie understands that some clients, especially older individuals and others who are especially vulnerable, may be hesitant, but she feels cautiously optimistic. “Clients have been largely very happy to support a local, family owned small business. Many are eager to get back in to relieve stress and physical discomfort from working at home,” she notes. “I know that it will not be easy but my team is dedicated to providing a relaxing experience for our clients in the safest way possible.”
Smaller operators in the personal service area are also restoring their client appointments. Makeup artist and owner of Leesi B. Cosmetics Elise Brill will reopen her popular makeup studio on May 30 with special precautions. “I’ve participated in over 15 webinars on CDC, OSHA and state board safety guidelines,” says Elise. “I’ll be wearing an N95 mask, a face shield and gloves, and setting aside extra time for disinfecting between clients.” During the shutdown, Elise continued online sales of her cosmetics and gift cards. “My clients are very important to me, and I’m forever grateful for their support of my business.”