Open/Close: 2 Days Open After 4 Months Shut, Then Locked Again
"At what point does it not make it worth it anymore?" said Reyna Patel, left, co-owner with Sneha Bhavan of a Pigtails & Crewcuts kids' hair salon in California.
The co-owners of a Pigtails & Crewcuts in Los Altos, California, were excited to reopen their kids' haircut salon in July, and spent the week before getting rid of the activity tables, separating the haircut stations and re-doing the website to change the walk-in shop to appointments only. But the restart was short-lived. Fourth in a series called Open/Close.
"It was two days, after being closed for four months. Then we received the order from the state" to close again after COVID-19 cases surged, said Sneha Bhavan, co-owner.
Disappointed doesn't begin to cover their feelings, "especially because of all the work we put into bringing the place back up and open again," said Reyna Patel. The two opened their shop in December 2018.
When California's governor ordered that all personal services businesses had to close, on March 16, it was the middle of the day. "We didn't wait for the end of business. We had our employees post the sign, turn out the lights and walk away," said Patel. "We thought it would be a couple of weeks."
Back in March, the pair reached out to as many service providers as possible to ask for concessions, from the landlord to the security company to the point-of-sales vendor, and were able to negotiate"a few," but costs like garbage removal or internet service go on. "It costs us money to stay closed and remain closed," said Patel.
Expenses to reopen were significant as well. "We had to purchase and install new PPE equipment for our employees and customers; a touchless hand sanitizer by the front door; a sneeze guard by the reception desk. We purchased and made available a touchless thermometer so we could take their temperature," said Bhavan, plus the signage needed to explain all the new rules.
Employees also took the second shutdown hard, as they were nearing the end of additional federal unemployment benefits, scheduled through July 31 although Congress is debating extensions. Being called back to work was good timing.
Bhavan and Patel are not sure of their next move. Reached last week, they said the government directives are "changing daily," with the latest being an option for hair salons to provide services outside. "It's up to the individual salon owner to decide if something is right for them," said Patel. They would only have space to set up one haircut station outside, they figure, plus they have added concerns because their customers are children. "So does it really make sense when our salon can support seven services being performed at the same time?" said Patel, plus their store typically does a brisk retail business as well.
Loans and grants they've received will allow them to keep going for another six to eight months once they reopen. "But depending on how much longer this continues, there's always that risk" that they won't continue, Patel said. "At what point does it not make it worth it anymore?"
Read other stories in Open/Close, a new franchisetimes.com series reporting how franchisees are navigating as business starts and stops amid the COVID-19 pandemic.