(YONKERS, N.Y.) — “We knew we were going to have to close from before the mandate was put in place, and we did end up closing three days before it was official,” Vanessa Osso said over the phone when asked if how she thought COVID-19 would impact her local hair salons. To her, it was not worth it to stay open if people were afraid.
“My dad is my partner, and he was optimistic that we would reopen in two weeks,” she said. “But I had an inkling that things were going to be bad.” She closed the stores on March 16, 2020, and waited three months to reopen them on June 11.
COVID-19’s profound impact is felt throughout all industries across New York state. Every type of non-essential business, like movie theaters, gyms, and hair salons closed per a New York state mandate at the beginning of the pandemic.
According to ISBS World, there already was a decline in hair salon businesses of 1.1% from 2019 to 2020, from 93,9083 nationwide salons in 2019 to 84,3977 salons in 2020. New York has the second highest number of salons (7,987), just behind California (8,112)
“A few of my friends had to permanently close their shops,” Osso said. On the bright side, these closures showed that people could find other ways of getting the services they need. In Osso’s case, some clients even had stylists help them at home.
“Social media made it easy for stylists to be accessible. It took business out of the salon,” she said. While closed, Osso and her team took to Instagram as a way to keep business going and keep their clients’ hair happy, offering DIY hair mask recipes with ingredients that you could find in your kitchen and tips to keep hair healthy.
She even decided that she could open her salon on Bronx River road for curbside pickup of products like shampoos.After opening back up, Osso said saw a drop in customers, about 25%. “It’s average in the New York salon industry right now,” she said, “because not only were people doing their hair at home, and stylists were doing clients at their homes.”
Operating costs have also gone up 22-25%. “We have to provide masks for both clients and stylists, hand and surface sanitizers, and in the beginning right, after we reopened, we had used disposable capes,” Osso said.
Now that she has opened again, Osso and her team are taking health and safety precautions seriously. Both customers and stylists wear masks for the entire time of service. The stylists adjusted to wearing masks. She admits that most customers are also okay with the masks, with a few exceptions. “You have a few [who are] over the top about not wanting to wear it, but not many of them,” she said.
The team takes temperatures and will provide a mask if you do not have one, but all in all, Osso is happy to have her clients and stylists back in her salons.