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Barbershops are back, with a new look

Barbershops and beauty salons reopened this past weekend in Farmville while taking necessary precautions. The businesses were greeted by customer bases excited to have them back.

Phase 1 of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan for the state allowed these businesses to resume limited operation after they had been closed since March 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summer Wooten, the barber and owner of Farmville Barber Shop, on North Main Street, said she was just happy to be at work Friday, May 15, which was the first day barbershops and beauty salons could reopen.

“It’s been nice to come back and be able to see all my customers,” she said. “I think everybody’s been happy to see me.”

She said business had been nonstop that day. Except for a lunch break, she had a haircut scheduled every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and she said she was booked up Tuesday, May 19, and Wednesday, May 20, the next two days her business would be open.

Linda Gillispie, owner of Gillispie’s Barber Shop on West Third Street, said she was so glad to come back to work Friday and estimated she did 43 haircuts on the day.

“This is my livelihood,” she said. “I get social security, but that pays the bills, but this is what I live off of. So for the last two months, my grandchildren have bought my food and all this, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep (the shop), and thank God, by the grace of God I made enough today to pay my rent.”

Lisa Holmes, manager of Cost Cutters on South Main Street, said she and her crew were certainly glad to be back and were busy over the weekend.

Deloris Jackson, owner of Deloris’ Beauty Salon on West Third Street, said business had been steady Friday and Saturday, May 16.

“It’s been steady because I’m doing appointments,” she said. “I’m not letting people overwhelm me.”

A Great Escape Spalon on East Third Street had fewer customers than usual on Friday afternoon, but Owner Julie Cales affirmed this was not because customers were tentative. Co-Owner Joe Flannagan noted it was because the business was simply following the governor’s rules.

“We’re at half capacity now, of course, because we’re not supposed to have a whole lot of people in the building,” he said.

This hints at some of the changes businesses have made to return to operation.

“Appointments are my biggest thing,” Wooten said. “I’ve not done that before. And so far it’s not been too bad. Some of your working guys can’t make appointments. They come when they can, so I think that’s going to be hard for some of them.”

She said she has also been worried about some of her older customers not remembering their appointments.

Another new normal aspect of business for now is the need for masks. When her customers set up their appointments on the phone, they are also alerted to their need to wear a mask.

Jackson said that with what is going on, she does not mind using the mask.

“I’m not going to do without using the mask, because nobody is trying to get this virus,” she said. “I know I’m not.”

Gillispie said some of her clients came in with masks.

“And then if they did come in and there was nobody in here, I didn’t make a big fuss about it, because I have mine on, and a lot of people just won’t wear them,” she said.

In addition to capacity restrictions, some businesses made changes to aid in social distancing while customers were on the premises.

“I turn my chairs around so I can keep my people separate,” Wooten said, noting that multiple waiting chairs were up against the wall, facing the wall, leaving only a few in between for actual seating.

Gillispie said if one person came in while one was getting a haircut, she did not mind it too much, as long as they had a mask and they kept their distance.

“But if two came in, I sat one way down here in the hallway away from the others,” she said, also noting that some stood outside and waited since she works quickly.

Some services are unavailable for now due to safety concerns. Jackson noted she had a man who came in Saturday and asked her to cut his beard.

“I think he might have got a little upset,” she said. “I told him, no, I couldn’t do it. That’s one of our laws. We can’t cut anybody’s beards now.”

Some businesses took added measures to monitor the health of their clients.

“I take everybody’s temperature that comes in here, and I haven’t run into anyone yet (where) the temperature was over 100,” Jackson said. “Because if so, I wouldn’t do it. Money’s not everything. My life and my customers mean a lot to me. I can’t jeopardize people’s life.”

She said she pretty much requires her customers to wear both gloves and masks.

Gillispie said she did not feel any different about business other than just being extra careful.

“And like I told the guys when they come in the door, I said, ‘If you’re sick or you feel bad, please turn around and go back the other way,’” she said.

The salons and barbershops benefited over the weekend from their regular customer base that had been holding off on haircuts and treatments during the pandemic until they could return. Wooten said for a lot of her customers, if she is not doing the cutting, they will not get a haircut.

“So I’ve had a few that were in need of a haircut before things went out,” she said. “So I just had a man come in here, and he gave me money, and I didn’t even cut his hair. He said, ‘This is for the haircut that was missed.’ That was very nice. My customers have been very generous in looking out for me.”

Jerry Riley, of Rice, a regular at Cost Cutters, had considered an alternate path to a cut during the pandemic but was steered away from it.

“I was going to try to do it myself, but my wife wouldn’t let me,” he said.

Roland Baskette, of Farmville, is a regular at Farmville Barber Shop, and he almost forgot to adapt to one aspect of the new normal.

“I got out of the truck and walked all the way up here, looked in, and I was like, ‘Oh! Forgot something,’” he said. “I had to go back to the truck and get my face mask.”