'Now the social (part) is over': What suburban hair salons, barbershops will be like

Suburban hair salons and barbershops can reopen Friday with measures that safeguard the health of customers and employees, but that takes out much of the joy, service providers said.

"All the fun stuff is gone," said Debra Junod, co-owner of Headquarters Salon and Spa in Elgin.

"People came and talked. Even if it was a haircut, it was social. Now the social is over," said Tanya Walker, who recently closed her salon and now rents a chair at PH Salon in Schaumburg.

Under Phase 3 of the "Reopen Illinois" plan, hair salons and barbershops can serve customers by appointment at maximum 50% capacity, or five customers per 1,000 square feet of usable space.

Employees and customers must wear face coverings and space should be configured to keep customers 6 feet apart. Stations must be disinfected after each customer, and reusable equipment like towels and capes must be sanitized after each use.

No magazines are allowed, and no food or beverages can be served.

Still, it's good to be able to go back to work after more than two months with no income, service providers said.

Many are taking additional measures, like taking temperatures, asking customers to call or text from outside before coming in, and keeping a detailed list so everyone can be contacted should someone test positive for COVID-19.

PH Salon will give gloves to customers and even has face shields for those who want them, owner Toni Waitkus said.

"Basically, I'm treating it like a doctor's office," she said.

  Hairstylist Tanya Walker wipes down her station Wednesday at PH Salon in Schaumburg in preparation for Friday's opening. Rick West/

Preparing to reopen meant scrambling to purchase masks and gloves after giving away her stash at the beginning of the pandemic, said Junod, who's booked for three weeks starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

Walker, who is booked through June starting at 5 a.m. Saturday, said services will be quick and efficient. For the time being, she's not booking weaving and braiding, which can take four to five hours, she said.

Going to a hair salon during the pandemic is a personal decision, but one must take all precautions and be mindful of protecting employees, said Linda Forst, senior associate dean at the School of Public Health of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"If you're a customer and you come in and out of the hair salon, it's maybe 40 or 60 minutes. But the stylist is standing there for six hours or 12 hours at a time," she said.

  PH Salon owner Toni Waitkus puts up adhesive signs around the Schaumburg salon Wednesday. Rick West/

If you need to cough or sneeze, even if you're wearing a mask, you should do it into your elbow and turn away from the hairstylist, she said. People need to stay away if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, but also if they have been in close contact with people who have tested positive or might have the virus, Forst said.

Salons, particularly large ones, should consider having an employee monitoring the door and bathroom, and holding team meetings to discuss health and safety, she said. "It will take more cooperation."

Randy Gunst owns My Salon Suite franchises in Glen Ellyn, open since January, and Oak Brook, which opened two days before the March shutdown. Each location has 25 individual suites that can be rented by hairstylists, nail technicians, massage therapists and more.

During these pandemic days, being able to offer a one-on-one experience is a plus, he said.

"The environment is such that you can close that suite door, and people can feel safer."

Where you’ll be able to shop starting Friday

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