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'Hey, we're open!' Personal care businesses facing unique challenges

Some hair salons across Guelph have had to advertise that they're even open
First Choice Haircutters Team on Paisley Road.

The switch to online services and pick-up orders served as a saving grace for many local businesses, but the personal care sector has been facing a whole world of different challenges during the pandemic.

Sisters Jenn DiRaddo Jefferson and Steph DiRaddo Lakatos own all six First Choice Haircutters in Guelph. The business has been family-owned and ran without a problem for over three decades, but recently the sisters have had to advertise the simple fact that their salons are open.  

"Right now, the specific problem for all salons across Ontario I think is that people assume that we're closed because we've gone to a modified Step 2 and in previous times, we were locked down during those times when restaurants weren't able to serve people indoors and when gym and theatres were closed, salons were closed as well but currently, we are not closed but people think we are and so, unfortunately, means that our client counts have gone down drastically. And I've heard this from many salon owners and spa owners across the city,” said DiRaddo Jefferson.

AFYA Skin and Body Laser Clinic faces a different challenger altogether. 

For services like laser hair removal where clients need to attend monthly appointments, clinic director Antonella Calandra had to throw in extra treatments on the house.

“Just to give you an idea of laser hair removal, if you don't come consistently, you're kind of starting back at square one so for those people who had to take a break during our first second and third shutdown, we've had to add treatments to their package at no charge because it's no fault of their own,” said Calandra. 

She said it gets tricky when clients have to commit to appointments that may be stalled either because of the lockdown or because of their health. 

“We're very fortunate because we do have a very strong loyal clientele base. And they all know that we are very, very safe and we were very safe from before COVID,” said Calandra. 

She said it also gets awkward when people ask for refunds. “It's very challenging to look back at your business and give a refund from two to three years ago.”

DiRaddo Jefferson said while it's difficult for salon owners, it's also been difficult for stylists who have had to cut hours .“They rely heavily on their tips as well as part of their compensation and so it's just a really difficult time again for us even though we're not shut down this time,” said DiRaddo Jefferson.

With the new lockdown rules, salons are only allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, but DiRaddo Jefferson said their number of clients across all six salons is nowhere near what they were before the pandemic. 

"At First Choice Haircutters, we are operating a safe salon environment for the Guelph community," said DiRaddo Jefferson.

Kim Nguyn who owns Lux Nails Spa said while her store saw a steady stream of customers in the summer, the number of customers had reduced by 50 per cent. 

“We’re usually very busy now and we’re losing customers that's for sure,” said Nguyn, adding that she’s grateful to still be open. 

She said while the store has been advertising that it's open on its social media, she believes many people just can't afford to pay the extra cash to get their nails done during the pandemic.

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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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