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Salons, barbers excited to be open

After the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, personal care services such as hair salons and barber shops reopened from Saturday 20 June, after being closed for nearly three months.

Local salon owners and barbers Eikestadnuus spoke to say they already prepared for their possible reopening weeks before the announcement was made.

Faizel Biscombe, owner of well-known Arts Barber Shop in Idas Valley, says this was the longest his barber shop had been closed in his 32-year-long career. “Before this the longest I had ever been closed was for a week-long holiday. We will need to reassure our clients about coming to the shop again. For all these years we as barbers and hairdressers worked one-on-one with clients. We have always been very hygiene-oriented. This was a very difficult time for us. I tried to apply for the small business grant from government but I was denied.”

His clients were very considerate, says Biscombe. “I am grateful for every phone call, SMS, WhatsApp and support, in every means, from the time we were closed.”

He said he had already thought about the extra safety protocols he would have to put in place once he was allowed to reopen long before the announcement was made. He reopened his shop on Saturday 20 June.

For example, appointments are made only online, and he takes one client every 30 minutes to give him enough time to clean and sanitise his shop and equipment before and after every client. Masks, of course, have to be worn and only one client is allowed in the shop at a time, unless a client comes early, in which case there is enough space for them to wait. “For all these years it was nice having a barber shop where people could sit and chat. I will miss that. We will have no choice but to work only on an appointment system. The important thing is people must feel safe. Before lockdown I was a walk-in barber. After 32 years, our lives have had to change big time. I have experimented with a lot of things to uplift my business over the years.”

Biscombe says he had been cleaning his shop for about two weeks before the announcement was made.

Peter Cupido of Peter’s Barber Shop in Idas Valley and Pniël, opened both his shops on Monday 22 June. “It was very exciting,” he said. “I hadn’t seen my employees in a long time. Just the fact that we can get going again, and we will have an income again, means a lot to us. I can’t wait to see my clients again.

“I’d already put in dispensers for sanitising before the lockdown. We will have to make sure everyone wears masks. We are still operating as a walk-in barber, where no appointments are necessary, but we will not exceed the number of people allowed in the shop at any given time.

“This has been a tough time for many barbers. I have applied twice for two different types of government relief funds, but have not received a response.”

Reinder Buist, owner of Hairlines Salon in central Stellenbosch’s Checkers Centre, says the closing of his business during lockdown was a stressful situation.

He had not received the money he applied for from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and helped his affected employees from his own pocket.

Buist had already put shields between the washing basins and on the receptionist’s desk the previous month, and bought sanitiser and other cleaning equipment so the salon could be ready to reopen at any time.

He reopened on Monday 22 June, although clients were already phoning a week before to enquire after its reopening.

“Most of the hairdressers are already fully booked this whole week.”

Regarding regulations for hair salons, Buist says clients have to wear masks, their temperature gets checked before entering the salon and personal details are also taken. “We are excited to be back on track. We hope it will get easier as time goes on. Luckily we are a big salon, so there is a lot of space for social distancing. I must say it is not easy to wear a mask when one also wears glasses.”

Like Biscombe, Buist stresses that hair salons had always cleaned on a regular basis during the day, between clients, even before lockdown.

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