Salons are open; wait lists are long


June 12, 2020

Jana Peterson

Nicole Demenge drove from Duluth to get her nails done by Tony Nguyen. "He's the best," she said, as Nguyen put the finishing touches on her new acrylic nails.

With salons opening this month, "pandemic hair" should soon be a distant memory - if you can get an appointment.

Stylist Sheryl Davis reopened Sheryl's Golden Shears in Carlton on June 1 with close to 130 people on a waiting list. "So many waited until June 1 to call, so those people won't be able to come in until July or even after," Davis said.

Many stylists said the same. After three months of waiting, they're now booked solid for weeks.

"Before opening, I sent out a form to my clients, asking what they needed, availability, if they needed it right away or were willing to wait a little bit," said Adelle Croutteau at Hair Zone in Cloquet.

"I got 17 forms filled out and returned in the first 10 minutes." Croutteau is booked into July.

Salons were allowed to open June 1, with numerous requirements for sanitation and occupancy at 25 percent of fire code. The governor's "Stay Safe Minnesota" now allows salons, tattoo parlors and barber shops to open to 50-percent occupancy rates and must require appointments.

According to state guidelines, both workers and clients should wear masks at all times. If the client can't wear a mask, then the worker must wear both a mask and a face shield. They must wear gloves and change those and their work smock/apron between each customer. There should be 6 feet of space between work stations. Some larger salons, like Cost Cutters inside the Cloquet Walmart, put up plastic shields between stations.

At Angel Nails in Cloquet, there are fewer stations and new plastic shields to separate customers and the nail technicians. Staff wear masks and they ask that customers do too.

Duluth's Nicole Demenge didn't mind, she was just thrilled to get her nails done by Tony Nguyen.

"I'm so excited to be here," she said. "Tony's been doing my nails for years."

Many local salons are reading ing their customers' temperatures when they arrive and requiring them to use provided hand sanitizer when entering the business. People need to make appointments in advance or call from outside to see if they can get in. Most salons are asking customers to wait in their cars until they call or wave them inside.

Customers can also relax on the front porch at the Hair Zone, which occupies the first floor of what was once a residential home. Stylists work in three different rooms inside, so social distancing was already part of the equation.

Strict guidelines for sanitizing means more time between customers, said Desiree Pederson of Necessities Salon and Day Spa in Cloquet, who leaves a full 30 minutes to clean between appointments at her one-person workplace.

"When I'm done I lock the door and go through a full disinfection process, wiping down every surface they've touched and then letting it sit, because it needs a certain cure time to work," she said. "I figure I'm missing about four hours of client contact a day."

On the bright side, that "cure time" means more time outside for Pederson, or more time to keep working on her art or music. Connecting more deeply with those things was a silver lining to her forced time off work when the state shut down all non-essential businesses, including salons, in March.

Jana Peterson

Jackie Peterson gets a haircut from Dawn Browne of Powers Barbershop. "I kind of picked at it myself with scissors, but it grew out a bit," Peterson said. "I really wanted a haircut from a professional." Business has been steady since they reopened, Darold Powers said.

Croutteau said the time off was a mixed blessing. She said she went a little stir crazy at first, missing the customer contact, but she was happy to be home and able to help her daughter, a fifth-grader, with distance learning. Her husband was able to work from home to keep an income coming in. She applied for unemployment assistance as a self-employed person but it took about seven weeks for it to come in.

"I know a lot of single parents who were in that situation and not getting money for that amount of time was really scary and tough for them," Croutteau said.

She said it's nice to be back at work and seeing customers with longer hair and maybe some extra gray.

Pederson said it was a "reset" for her. She walked a lot, organized closets and costumes, made a music video (featured in the May 15 Pine Knot), and enjoyed a lot of home cooking.

"But I'm so glad to be back," she said. She missed her regular clients and they missed her.

"I feel like everyone's self-est-eem and psyche got a little down," she said of the past few months. "A fresh cut can make someone feel better about their day."


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