Briones: Personal care business in Ontario faces unique challenges as province opens up again – Ottawa Citizen

With spas and salons not being able to operate for months, many underground services — offering everything from haircuts to nail treatments — popped up during the pandemic.
Starting Wednesday, “COVID hair, don’t care,” badly chewed nails, and unibrows will be things from the past, and this time I hope it is for good.
The province is moving ahead of schedule in its reopening plan and hair salons and other personal care services are ready to reopen their doors starting June 30.
Personal care businesses have suffered a rollercoaster of on-and-off reopenings and shutdowns. It feels like that scene where Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown — lifting it up just as he thinks he’ll make a successful kick-off.
Even though the industry is ready to roll out the red carpets for plenty of hairy, bushy clients in Ottawa, many are afraid the underground beauty market has taken away many of their existing clients.
In this industry, it is a well-known fact that some people were simply going to someone’s basement for personal care services, or entering from the back door of a curtained-off establishment. In recent weeks, some other customers have been able to seek services in Gatineau, which was ahead of Ottawa in reopening.
It only takes a simple search on Kijiji and you will find a plethora of posts from underground services willing to take cash, e-transfers and even come to your house if you are OK with that.
“My salon has been fully stocked and ready to go for weeks. I have all my PPE (personal protective equipment) and protocols in place, including a brand new sink. You would think I would be flooded with clients. Well, the truth is I’m not. So I know I have to start over like I’m a baby business again,” said Bernadette Lampman, owner of Serenity Spot Esthetics.
After months of businesses not being able to operate, many underground personal care services popped up during the pandemic. It makes sense, if people are out of work for close to a year, that they would come up with innovative ways to continue feeding their families. So, “text me for a haircut” or “message me for an at-home spa experience,” although frustrating to business owners who follow the rules, is somewhat understandable when you need to survive financially.
“I think there’s been a lot of that going on. I would like to think that my clients would have not entertained this black market option, but I’m sure some did and unfortunately there’s always a chance that I’ve lost some. Not to mention that many crossed over to the Quebec side to seek services,” said Diane Lagana, owner of Ever Radiant Medical Cosmetic Laser Clinic.
Yet, while some businesses are experiencing slower-than-normal bookings, others are nervous at the possibility of drinking from a firehose and not being able to keep up with the sudden demand.
“We have a waiting list for when we are able to fully reopen, which is great, right? Unfortunately we have a long list of clients that we have to catch up on, the wait time may be too long for some — therefore again a possibility of losing clients,” Lagana said.
Hiring new employees would be an easy solution. However, in an industry that’s been closed for much of a year now, many of those people have decided to pursue other careers. Hiring is proving to be a challenge.
No matter how you view the personal care industry, it is a business that has suffered enormous consequences from the constant lockdowns.
So do the industry and yourself a favour and get that bush, nails or skin taken care of by legitimate local businesses. And remember that patience and kindness towards a small business owner who has been shut down for this long, goes a long way.
Karla Briones is a local immigrant entrepreneur and owner of Global Pet Foods Kanata & Hintonburg; Freshii Westboro; founder of the Immigrants Developing Entrepreneurs Academy; and an independent business consultant. The opinions here are her own. Her column appears every two weeks.
Sign up to receive daily headline news from Ottawa Citizen, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.
A welcome email is on its way. If you don’t see it, please check your junk folder.
The next issue of Ottawa Citizen Headline News will soon be in your inbox.
We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again
Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.
365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4
© 2021 Ottawa Citizen, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.
This website uses cookies to personalize your content (including ads), and allows us to analyze our traffic. Read more about cookies here. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.


Book an appointment