By: Anne Geggis
Three weeks into the coronavirus shutting down life as we knew it, the distance barbers and beauticians must keep from their clients is revealing all too much.
Roots are coming in, eyebrows are getting bushy, extensions are looking ratty, and the nail fillers don’t look quite right. The effort to stop the disease from spreading means the ban on personal services that would fix all that won’t be lifted until April 30 — at the soonest. And that seems much too far off for people like Penny Pagano of Coral Springs.
“It’s hard to do on yourself,” the schoolteacher said of her pink-and-white manicure that’s chipping fast.
Social distancing is also putting a paycheck far away from all the beauticians and barbers who often work as independent contractors. Doing it privately, under the table, could put hairdressers and barbers at risk for fines or suspension.
Pagano, 56, hopped on a NextDoor thread someone started, which asked for a hairdresser willing to do a private salon session. Pagano followed it in the hopes that she could get a line on someone willing to do her nails. But the original poster pulled it when others on the Coral Springs board attacked her for seeking to break anti-COVID-19 protocols that call for non-household members to stay at least 6 feet away.
But Pagano doesn’t see the problem.
“I would be more than willing to sit one-on-one in someone’s house,” Pagano said. “If I could put a mask on, and they could put a mask on.”
State records show that in Parkland and Coral Springs alone, nearly 1,000 people make a living with scissors. It also affects those who do facials, hair wrapping, hair braiding, and nails. Often many of these workers are independent contractors and don’t get money unless they have customers.
But Christina McIntosh, 42, said she’d rather dig into her savings than potentially get the virus as she snips away at W Salon in Coral Springs. She also does updos, color, and keratin treatment and doesn’t see how she can safely do her job without risking exposure.
“Looking at the statistics at how it’s spreading, I wasn’t about to go into my workplace and have that contact,” she said.
Starting three weeks ago, Molly Stillwell of Delray Beach lost every single client she had booked with her business Fairytale Bridal Makeovers, including two that had been scheduled at the Parkland Golf & Country Club.
“Even my May brides rescheduled,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Camilla Huang, who has owned a 5,000-square-foot, Aveda salon at the Coral Square mall, Camilla Day Spa, for 17 years, said she has never been through something like this.
“It’s not something you can stay home at work at,” she said. “Of course we are devastated because my staff has no job.”
Mostly, the hairdressers are independent contractors, and she can only hope they come back. Huang said. She can hardly wait to get her ‘do back in shape.
“My gray is coming out,” she said. “We have male customers who say they are going to end up with a man bun.”
Even more than looking good, the staff and clients are missing that human connection, she said.
“Right now, with the high stress in our community, they are not able to come and de-stress,” she said.
- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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