‘We live in soap and water’: Barre business owner advocates for salons to reopen

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For business owners like Desiree Mears, the longer they wait to reopen, the more uncertainty about the future builds up.

“We need some answers, we need some guidance,”said Mears, owner of Posh Salon & Spa in Barre.

For the last eight weeks, Mears said the store has complied with the shutdown order, but without any definitive timeline or guidance for when the industry can reopen, Mears and her stylists are in financial jeopardy.

Gov. Phil Scott announced on Monday that retail businesses can re-open on May 18 if they follow guidelines, but the loosened restrictions do not apply to health and beauty businesses, including gyms, fitness studios and salons.

“I do believe it should be all about choice,” said Mears, who said salons should have the option to reopen if they can comply with strict health guidelines.

“Throughout the entire U.S., there are a lot of salons that feel like we could absolutely open safely.”

Born and raised in Barre, Mears has owned the studio since 2014, working with seven other independent stylists to cater to the roughly 800 customers they style every month. 

Since they were required to close in March, Mears and her co-workers, or as she affectionately calls them, “her girls”, have had to wrestle with overwhelming financial constraints.

More: Personal pandemic: Short stories of Vermonters facing life in the coronavirus era

Mears estimates she and her stylists have collectively lost over $100,000 in income over the last eight weeks. A few of them, including Mears, are still waiting on months of unemployment benefits from the state’s Department of Labor.

Prior to the pandemic, Mears and her stylists required guests to use hand sanitizer before they sat in their chairs. On top of that, stylists regularly use hospital grade disinfectants common in the salon industry. 

“We live in soap and water,” Mears said. “We feel like we are such a controlled environment and we have high standards when it comes to sanitation.”

Mears is mindful of the safety risks to her guests, however. The salon caters to a range of clients, from young children and families to older guests in their 90s.

Many of those long-time clients have reached out to Mears, asking her or the other stylists to come to their house to do their hair.

“We definitely see ourselves as a staple for our community,” said Mears.

For the time being, Mears is working to ensure guests and stylists can feel safe coming in once they are allowed to reopen. 

“For most of us, we’ve poured every last part of our lives into running this business.”

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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