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Hair stylists, nail salons plan reopening with no guidance yet from New York state

Belinda Cornell
The Salon at Studio B in Watertown. Salon owner Belinda Cornell is moving from this location to a private suite she's renovating at her home, after hearing some of her hairdressers won't be returning to work soon.

Barbershops, hair and nail salons were ordered to close on March 21, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Last week, Cuomo announced hair stylists are in phase two of reopening parts of New York State. Although the state has not yet provided any guidance on what that might look like, salon owners are taking it upon themselves to start planning. 

Hair stylist Belinda Cornell is the owner of The Salon at Studio B in Watertown. She said filing for unemployment has been a nightmare. But she got her first check last week.

“I’m really grateful at this point for anything extra," Cornell said. "That goes towards my bottom line."

Cornell took a commission base from hair stylists that used her studio. As she looks to a possible reopening by the end of next week, or June 1, she said at least two of her full-time hairdressers said they’re not coming back, because they have kids with no one to watch them.

“If I’m not making money, if I can’t sustain rent on 2,400 square feet, plus utilities, then it’s no longer a benefit for me to keep the business as it was running,” Cornell said.

So, she is using her savings to convert part of her home into a new private salon for her to use.

"I'm wrestling with feeling guilty for not providing a work location for the few girls that were absolutely ready to return to work and the gentleman who’s our aesthetician who was going to return to work, and looking at what's best for my family," Cornell said.

Instead of copying the recommendations other states have made, she’s coming up with her own guidelines of how her business will change. Clients will be asked to stay in their vehicles until the space is cleared and sanitized. Every client will get a new cape, there will be face masks and Cornell will have a new apron for each appointment.

"As all hairstylists would probably tell you, we have a list, pages and pages long, of people champing at the bit to come back and get themselves back together,” Cornell said.

It's unclear if nail salons are included in the phase 2 reopening, but Danny Nguyen, the owner of Luminous Nails and Spa in Syracuse, is preparing to reopen with guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and other states.

“We need to try to limit our capacity, like the staff and clients in the salon," Nguyen said. "It’s going to be a lot different than it used to be. It’s not going to be normal.”

That means they’ll operate by appointments only, no walk-ins. Everyone will have to wear a mask, sanitize their hands and have their temperature checked. And Nguyen said they’re installing protective shields at each nail station and the reception area.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.