- August 31, 2021
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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.
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