NYC salons stranded in lockdown limbo are 'trying everything’ to serve clients and survive
An empty New York City hair salon.(Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)
Amy Schiappa’s days of styling hair and running two popular salons with 26 employees have been turned on their head by the coronavirus crisis.
Her Fringe Salons in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been shuttered for four weeks.
Instead of trimming locks, her time is now spent cutting back, applying for aid, meditating and trying to predict how her high-touch industry can rebound in a post lockdown landscape.
“I’ve just ordered thermometer guns,” she told the Daily News. “When we do go back, we’re going to do it with so much care. It’s going to be a different world.”
Schiappa, 46, envisions taking temperature readings at the door. Maybe she’ll send out videos before each appointment, orienting clients to new safety measures. She expects everyone will wear masks.
Her hope is to reopen in June. Her other hope is she’ll eventually get some stimulus money.
She found out Friday she apparently didn’t get any of the first-come-first-served money allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program in the initial $2.2 trillion stimulus package.
“I hope that they approve a second round of funding,” she told The News .
“If we get the loan, we should be fine. But if I don’t get it, ooof. So many what ifs,” she said.
The landlord for her Lower East Side location already asked for her latest $8,700 rent payment.
“I said, ‘You’ll get yours when I get mine.’ What’s he going to do? Get someone else?” she said. “You can’t squeeze water out of a rock.”
Schiappa also has been offering curbside “color care packages” for customers, complete with customized formulas, detailed instructions and a piece of art with a personalized message.
“Really it’s just to keep in contact with our clients. If they’re desperate, we’re here for them,” she said. “I’m not a salesperson at heart. We’re a boutique of artists.”
Beauty salons are generally considered recession-proof businesses. Hair never stops growing, styles change and people place a premium on looking good.
But in a pandemic, the regular rules don’t apply, leaving salon owners and stylists across the city searching for ways to stay connected with clients – and stay afloat.
The sisters behind The Bird House salon in Brooklyn are also offering what they call their “Quarantine Color Kits."
The first 100 sold out almost immediately. They have a wait list for the next 100 and are hoping to fill the orders as soon as their bottle supplier delivers.
Pricing for the kits runs from $75 for just color and gloss to $150 for a “complete care” kit with color-protecting products and a deep-conditioning treatment.
“We’re really happy to be able to take care of our clients this way and maybe gain some new customers. It’s the only way we can really support ourselves right now other than gift certificate purchases,” co-owner Nicci Jordan Hubert told The News.
Hubert, 40, said she and her younger sister Brooke Jordan also applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and were waiting to hear back.
She said they had some savings going into the crisis, earmarked to open a second salon, but they’ve pretty much burned through it over the last month.
“We were getting excited about another location. It was the twinkle in our eyes,” she said. “We ended up using the savings to give our staff one last paycheck before unemployment. We’re just taking the bare minimum now to feed our families.”
She said they’ve been talking with the landlord of their Gowanus building, “working with him, trying to figure something out.”
“We’re just trying everything. We’ve applied for multiple grants, multiple loans. We’re just waiting to see. And we’re so worried about our stylists and staff,” explained.
“We’re scared, to be 100% honest, but the whole world is scared,” she said.
One thing Hubert and Schiappa seemed to agree on is that they’re not encouraging clients to cut their own hair at home. They’ve received requests for online tutorials, but they’re trying other strategies instead, hoping to ward off traumatizing mistakes.
“I’m trying to teach them tricks,” Schiappa said. “They can use oil on their ends so they’re not so rough, extending the life of their last cut.”
One of Schiappa’s longtime clients said she’s looking forward to the day she can return for an appointment.
“I’m watching some grey come in, and it feels kind of appropriate for the time. Like an austerity measure. But as everything comes back to life, we’ll all be wanting to put our best foot forward,” Manhattan interior designer Samantha Gore, 45, said.
“I’ll trust Amy to guide me when it’s time to evolve what’s happening with my hair,” she said. “You don’t want to DIY your hair.”