The hand washing station is used by all clients when they enter as part of the normal protocol at Frenchies Modern Nail Salon. Photo submitted.
While owners of local beauty salons hope Ventura County can move into the next stage of reopening that will include their businesses, some are expressing frustration and pointing to an apparent lack of understanding at the state and local level of the industry’s licensing requirements around cleanliness and public safety. “I feel a lot of sadness and frustration. I have a business that can adhere to public health standards and protocol and unfortunately we are grouped in phase three,” said Jonra Cross, owner of Frenchies Modern Nail Care that was slated to open on March 30 in Ventura Harbor Village. “Day care is open. People are touching. We really need to rally for individual consideration” for the beauty industry. Ventura County Public Health is preparing a letter to the state seeking individual attention for certain business sectors to be allowed to move toward reopening. “The perception is that nail care is nonessential. But foot and nail care is important and not everyone can bend over to cut their own toenails,” Cross said. Even while closed she is getting calls from potential customers who need help. “It’s heartbreaking from a lot of different perspectives . . . We are not able to help people who can’t care for their own feet right now,” said Cross. “And from the business perspective it’s heartbreaking as well. There is nothing we can do to survive if we can’t have an opportunity to do the right thing and also generate revenue.” Cross’ sentiments are echoed by Nicole Gaston, stylist and owner at The Ivy Mae Salon on Main Street in Ventura.
“Our license is specific to sanitation,” said Gaston. “They must not understand our industry . . . In March we had no idea what stage three was . . . It’s disappointing that stylists are put into phase three when we are trained in keeping people healthy and safe. Then I’m walking down the street and see a long line to get coffee, not everyone is wearing masks. It’s a little frustrating.”
Both Cross and Gaston point to protocols they already had in place as reasons nail and hair salons should be in a different category, and note that their knowledge will enable them to take additional measures to keep clients and staff even safer. Social distancing, for example, is achieved by managing appointments.
“We are willing and ready to meet all CDC, state and local requirements . . . We already had very serious written protocols in place,” said Cross. For example, prior to the pandemic, all instruments used at Frenchies went through a three-stage cleaning process (soap and water, a Barbicide disinfectant wash and autoclave sterilization), and porcelain bowls used for pedicures went through a visible cleaning process after each customer. Air is kept clean via a venting system at every station which is connected to the salon’s HVAC system.
Nicole Gaston, owner of The Ivy Mae Salon in Ventura. Photo submitted.
Additional protocols will now include a hand sanitizing station outside the nail salon, where customers will be asked to wash their hands before entering the salon. Masks and gloves will be worn by all employees, and guests will be given masks if they don’t have one of their own. For The Ivy Mae, Gaston has invested in a UV sterilization machine for hair brushes. “Everyone will have their own capes and combs. We will resterilize everything in between each customer.” All stylists will use gloves and masks, and the salon will have masks for customers that don’t have the behind-the-ear type needed during haircuts and shampooing. Gaston is also shopping for face shields, anticipating that they will be required. Both salons will close their waiting rooms and have clients wait in their cars.
Gaston says she expects other changes that may not be so obvious. “I’m just preparing [the stylists] for it looking very different and suggesting they tell their clients there won’t be much talking. It’s hard to talk wearing masks . . . No more mimosas and no more wine.”
Gaston and husband Aaron own the building that houses The Ivy Mae at 1544 E. Main Street. They received $10,000 early on through Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), a local nonprofit organization supporting small businesses.
The Ivy Mae salon in Ventura. Photo submitted.
“The WEV loan was really like a bridge. It literally saved us,” said Aaron.
The Gastons credit the WEV loan’s simple process and quick turnaround with easing not just the financial impacts but the stress of the business being shut.
“At the very beginning no one was mentioning mortgage relief. We have three loans on that building — construction loan, SBA [Small Business Administration] mortgage and a traditional mortgage,” said Gaston. Their SBA loan payments have been deferred to the “back end” of their mortgage. “Without the WEV loan we’d be in a bit of trouble now. But we are in a position to be able to pay that back pretty quickly.”
Gaston says that while they are in fairly good shape in the wake of the pandemic, the next few months will determine a lot.
“We were getting ready to open,” said Frenchies owner Cross. She had received a small business loan from the SBA to fund construction and inventory. A full-time manager came onto the payroll on Feb. 3., with 12 employees hired after that. “Ninety percent of that loan was already gone for our build out.”
As a result of stay-at-home orders, Frenchies couldn’t open as planned on March 30. Being a new business and missing eligibility dates, Frenchies didn’t qualify for available funding. In addition, Cross’ initial SBA loan hadn’t been fully dispersed, so she couldn’t apply for SBA funding made available in response to the pandemic. She applied to her bank for the initial SBA loan for a full disbursement of funds, but that request was denied. The business doesn’t qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which required employees to be hired by Jan. 31, 2020.
“In our case . . . as a service business we are not allowed to open and have no ability to sell online. We are trying to figure out how to work together [with local officials] over the next couple months to survive.”
Cross has reached out to local and state officials seeking individual review for the health and safety protocols at the nail salon. “We are ready and willing to do what is needed” to comply with all requirements, Cross said. As of press deadline she hadn’t yet received a response.