What two New Hampshire business owners think about reopening

Hair salon and bookstore employ contrasting approaches
Salon K Concord Aveda / 2019

Kae Mason is owner of Salon K in Concord (Courtesy photo)

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Friday afternoon for Kae Mason, who owns Salon K in Concord.

She says since Gov. Chris Sununu announced that some businesses can reopen this month with restrictions, her salon has booked over 175 appointments.

“I was concerned as to whether people would feel it was too soon, and what I was seeing is that they’re more ready than too soon,” she said.

Under the new stay-at-home order, barber shops and hair salons can begin to serve the public again on May 11.

To prepare for reopening, Mason has sterilized the salon, prepared sanitizer for each station and ordered masks for her 18 employees and clients to use.

“We’re going to space our chairs every other to make sure we adhere to the six-foot policy,” Mason said. “We’ve advised all our clients about waiting in their cars until they come in, and what the expectations are of them and us.”

Mason and other stylists around New Hampshire can only offer a limited number of services under the new order: haircuts and some coloring. But Mason’s customers have been understanding so far.

“They’ve been very positive of accepting there’s no blow-dry or getting highlights just yet,” she said.

While Mason’s excited some of her clients are coming back, the number of appointments for this month won’t make up for the losses her business incurred in the last six weeks. Not all clients are ready to come back, and she can’t offer any spa or permanent makeup services at her salon under the current order.

‘It’s just absurd’

The governor’s order also allows retail stores to reopen next week, but they have to limit their occupancy to 50%, and customers are encouraged to wear cloth masks.

But Katherine Nevins, who owns Main Street Bookends, an independent bookstore in Warner, says she’s not planning on opening her store next week.

“How do we determine who is safe to come in and who’s not safe? And after they leave, the environment is potentially not safe for the next customer. It’s just absurd,” she said.

She said the state needs to do more testing before she’ll be comfortable opening her bookstore, and she says she’s concerned these reopenings “may set [us] up for not a very good scenario.”

“As a business owner and someone who cares immensely about my community, I would not risk any one,” she said.

Instead, Nevins will continue with curbside pickup and delivery, or using FaceTime to walk customers through the bookstore so they can pick things out for a birthday or Mother’s Day, she says.

“We’ve figured it out, and it’s going very well,” she said. “I don’t see us adjusting dramatically for a while.”

Daniela Allee is a reporter with New Hampshire Public Radio. This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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