- September 21, 2021
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The dynamic in a salon where several professional cosmetologists work in close proximity is a special one, according to Tease Salon owner Kelli Haeusler.
“I feed off their energy and their talent. We are always consulting. We are always trying to improve each other, as a team,” Haeusler said.
That’s a key reason Haeusler, whose business is in Lower Macungie Township, supports a legislative proposal that would tighten language in state code that prohibits renting work areas in salons.
“When you break it down into rentals, you have lost that unification of the salon,” Haeusler said.
Not everybody agrees.
“I don’t mind the idea of renting chairs,” said Munefa Tahhan, owner of L&C Beauty Salon in Allentown. Tahhan, like other several other salon owners interviewed for this story, has had great difficulty finding cosmetologists to work in the salon in recent months.
Under state law, salons and spas that care for hair, skin and nails are licensed and regulated by the Department of State, and state code prohibits “booth rental.”
In a memo to fellow lawmakers, Republican state Rep. Natalie Mihalek of Allegheny County said, “In recent years there have been some businesses that have ignored this law by claiming they are renting ‘chairs’ or ‘space’ (not booths).”
Mihalek said she intends to file a bill that would tighten the language to prevent such rentals, which she says would protect consumers and assure the licensed facility maintains health, safety, financial accountability and other standards.
If the memo results in the filing of a bill, no action could be taken on it before late September, when lawmakers are scheduled to return to Harrisburg.
Representatives of the salon industry and the related cosmetology school industry in Pennsylvania each had their own reasons for favoring the proposal.
Henry Pelusi, president of the Pennsylvania Salon Spa Business Network, said the biggest concern is consumer safety.
Obtaining a cosmetology license in Pennsylvania requires 1,250 hours of study, and that includes acquiring knowledge of the use of dangerous chemicals used to color, wave and relax hair, Pelusi said. Used improperly, those chemicals can produce skin burns that resemble those from a fire, he said.
In a rental situation, liability would become a question, he said.
“That person, whoever they rent to, is operating their own business, let’s face it,” Pelusi said.
Aaron Shenck, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Career Schools, said there are financial reasons for schools to support Mihalek’s proposal.
He described it as a tip-driven business, and cosmetologists who rent booths, chairs or spaces in a business owned by someone else do not face the government scrutiny on financial matters that owners do, Shenck said.
Hence, their reported income might be less — and reported income of graduates is important to cosmetology schools in ensuing they can show the government that most graduates have gainful employment.
Shenck said, “It is very important that the proper tip and wage data is collected for this industry, because if it is not, it could come back on the school.”
Patricia Ann Hoke, who started styling hair 55 years ago, said that back then cosmetology law actually prescribed wardrobes for women practitioners.
“We had to wear white dress uniforms, stockings, nurse’s shoes,” said Hoke, who owns Patricia & Co. Styling Salon in East Manchester Township, York County. “We weren’t allowed to do men’s hair, but the barbers could do women’s hair.”
Comparisons with barber shops continue to affect cosmetology, she said. Barber shops owners can legally rent in their shops — a dynamic Hoke said is unfair and discriminatory.
She favors the Mihalek proposal.
Of renting, she said, “I don’t think it is all that above-board.”
Lisa Carr, another longtime salon owner in York County, agreed that barbers are very much on the minds of some cosmetology business owners.
“What is happening in the industry is barbers are allowed to rent their stations, and the salons think why can’t they rent stations, too,” Carr said.
Yet another factor may be stirring debate over rentals in the industry: suites.
Haeusler and a business partner, Timmy Huertas of South Whitehall Township, said the new trend has the owner of a large building dividing the interior into spaces that can be rented out to individual salon owners.
It is, they said, like having multiple salons under one roof.
Huertas could not say whether the “suite” phenomenon is contributing to friction over renting within salons.
But, he said, state cosmetology guidelines define the work space for a practitioner as 6 feet by 10 feet — and Huertas said he agreed that the language in the state law about what may not be rented should be made clear.
Morning Call Capitol correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.