Hair stylists and barbers won’t have to work hard to fill chairs when their shops reopen Monday.
With people sick of seeing shaggy locks and gray roots in the mirror, phones started lighting up as soon as Gov. Mark Gordon announced personal services businesses could get back to work May 1, although Teton County decided on a 10-day delay.
Renae Murray of The Hair Place laughed when asked if she’d been contacting her regulars to set up appointments.
“Most of my clients have sent me messages,” she said Thursday.
At Teton Barber, the valley’s oldest and best-known hair clippers, owners Debbie Bancroft and Tanya Crocker were at work that day preparing to resume cutting.
“The phone has been ringing and Tanya and I are in here cleaning up,” Bancroft said. “If they say we can open we’re ready, we want to open.”
That means Monday, May 11, the first day the county health officer has OK’d them to return to work, and then only with special conditions.
Staff must wear masks, for example, and customers must wear them as much as possible. Stations must be at least 6 feet apart, and no one can hang around a waiting room.
Bancroft said that means haircuts by appointment only, with probably only three barber chairs in use. People waiting their turn will do so standing outside or sitting in their cars, “waiting for us to motion them in,” Bancroft said.
Bancroft said getting used to one condition — masks for everyone — could prove a bit challenging.
“It’ll be weird,” she said. “We need to work around their ears the back of their heads — they may have to hold the masks to their faces.”
Bancroft said they have appointments for opening day, that customers’ confidence in their safety and need for a trim has people lining up, metaphorically.
During an online “listening session” hosted last week by the Wyoming Business Council, the executive director of the state Board of Cosmetology said everyone needs to be more diligent than ever about fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus. Though salons and barbershops are getting back to business, it’s not business as usual.
The rules for personal services, for example, require hand washing and surface sanitation after each patron is served.
“They’re going to need a lot more time between clients,” Sharon Bennett told listeners. “Just be patient.”
Indeed, Patty Pappas has been styling hair in Jackson Hole for 33 years, first at the Clip Joint in Snow King Hotel and now in a shared salon at 65 Mercill Ave. where stylists are each making their own decisions about when to return to work.
Pappas is embracing the added sanitation requirements and ordering disposable capes. Even though she has not seen a paycheck in six weeks, and is eager to get back to work, she’s going to wait until the week of May 18th.
“I just want to not spread it,” she said, “and for everyone to be safe that I love and care about.”
She’s keeping a close eye on what’s happening in other Wyoming counties and other states where salons reopened sooner.
“We’re all nervous. Every person in the world is,” she said. “In our line of work we are up close and personal.”
Her clients, including some in the vulnerable demographic, have been patient and cautious, she said.
Likewise, Michelle Mahoney Allen, who works in the same salon, said she appreciated Teton County District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell’s decision to move more cautiously than the rest of the state.
“I understand the need to reopen the economy, but we need to do that safely,” Allen said. “I miss the girls I work with, and I miss my clients. My job fulfills me, so being away from that has been tough.”
Allen, who has two young daughters, also joked, “come to find out, I’m not the best remote learning teacher.”
Though dealing with all of the unknowns brought on by a novel coronavirus and global pandemic has been nerve-racking, Pappas remains optimistic.
“I really believe in my heart it’s going to be fine,” she said, “but it’s just the figuring it all out.”
— Jennifer Dorsey, Mark Huffman and Rebecca Huntington