While they may not be classified as front-line workers, the stylists who interact with clients as they cut, color and style hair have experienced draining days of talking about the global pandemic day in and day out.
Since reopening its Scottsdale doors, Remedy Salon has implemented new hardware and protocols to safely operate their salon during the pandemic.
Beyond the long days at work, an emotional toll was felt by the Scottsdale stylists.
“With this pandemic, a lot of clients have been dealing with so much stress and anxiety — of course they’re going to tell us about it,” Remedy Salon co-owner Michelle Keoghan said.
“For the first several weeks that we were back in the salon in May, we were exhausted. We kept saying, we have to be so tired because of all the stress that people are coming in with — we were just feeling for everyone. It was hard to see everyone so stressed and upset.”
The stressful days are a far cry from the salon Ms. Keoghan and Suzanne Theune, hair stylists themselves, purchased a couple of years ago.
Remedy Salon and Spa, an established salon for about 13 years, was purchased by Ms. Keoghan and Ms. Theune in 2018 — Ms. Keoghan says they knew it was an “amazing place with a great energy.”
The two ladies grew the salon to include nail and spa services.
“We tried to put our stamp on it, modernize it, grow it,” Ms. Keoghan said. “We are really proud of our spa services and spa staff — they are really super strong, intelligent women who are awesome at what they do. That’s something that’s really fun for us, because while your hair color is processing for instance, you can go into the spa and get a manicure, pedicure or express facial.”
When the pandemic hit, Remedy Salon employed 28 people, with 16 hair stations, three spa rooms and a manicure, pedicure area.
“We were closed for almost six weeks. At that time, we didn’t know when we were going to reopen. It was really upsetting as a small-business owner to lock the door on the last day and go ‘Oh my gosh, I have poured my heart into soul into this. Is that it?’”
Remedy Salon applied for federal grant dollars, and received a small amount, Ms. Keoghan said, who declined to say how much.
When Remedy Salon faced the same unknown reality of COVID-19, the ladies took a proactive approach by implementing ideas they had eyed for the future.
As the days stretched by, the two owners believed they couldn’t sit idly by so they would often go to the salon to clean, organize, paint — do anything they could, Ms. Keoghan explained.
“We kind of fast forwarded a few things that we had learned about and had been thinking about in the coming years,” Ms. Keoghan said.
“One of the things we moved forward was at-home hair color kits.”
While their salon was closed, Remedy Salon prepared and mixed their clients’ hair color formulas — included with specific instructions and supplies, Ms. Keoghan assures — for clients to pick-up.
“At that time, our clients were like, ‘Oh I have an errand to do today’ — it was the only thing they were doing that day, and it was the only thing we were doing that day because times were just so slow,” she said.
“It was so wonderful to see our clients. Even if they weren’t our clients, we were just like ‘Hi!’”
Ms. Keoghan said they received great feedback from the idea, although not all clients were brave enough to follow-through with the at-home dye.
When Arizona allowed salons to reopen in May, other changes made include installing plastic dividers between hair stations and changing booking practices.
Ms. Keoghan says they no longer double book clients, and when too many people are in the lobby people take notice.
“That’s when we’ve had a reaction from someone saying ‘There’s too many people in here, I’m going to wait in my car.’ That hasn’t happened often, but that’s the person we’re catering to,” Ms. Keoghan said.
“We want you to know that we’re aware and we are sacrificing a lot of money because some of us are working on half the clients per day.”
While the local business is naturally slower because less people are traveling to Arizona, snowbirds specifically, Ms. Keoghan said, stylists still have to alter work schedules to service as many people as they can while maintaining a safe environment.
“Maybe I’m going to work an extra half a day to get some people in this November and December because I need to spread them out. Sometimes it’s more time in the salon just to see your clients one at a time. We’d rather have as many people as we can, but the snowbirds aren’t here so that’s hurting us.”
With a COVID-19 vaccine on the way, Ms. Keoghan says she can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s like you can kind of see an end to it now, I know we’re not going to be here next year,” she said.
“I think we’re ready to move on, but that doesn’t mean our clients want to sit next to each other. We know this will be happening for a long time, that’s why we decided to invest in the dividers.”
Editor’s note: The Scottsdale Independent is running a story on a local business as part of a project on YourValley.net highlighting the people behind the companies and their struggles in the ongoing pandemic.