Hair stylists, salon owners and estheticians are out of work, but they’re still expected to pay up.
Emi Wheaton owns and operates Gloss Salon and Studio in Southern California. She routinely visits her now vacant salon, and the eerie stillness saddens her every time she unlocks the door.
This is a place that is never quiet. For the past seven years, the bustling business has been home to conversation and community. A place for togetherness and friendship. Like it was for everyone in America, that camaraderie was taken away in what felt like seconds.
“The livelihood of not just us and our salon but my stylists and our clients who can’t afford to get their hair done, my stylists that can’t afford to sustain their business here, it really is heartbreaking for everyone," Wheaton said.
For Wheaton and her crew, and for small businesses everywhere, it’s been a grieving process. A process that came with a price.
“I have to pay the rent,” she said. “They’re not giving me any break. The government is saying they’re going to give me assistance, but every single day something else changes, something gets passed, something doesn’t get passed.”
Every time she’s tried to inquire about assistance, there’s been an hours-long wait on the phone. Or sometimes, no answer at all.
As a salon owner, she also has to pay the man who owns her building. He lives in China. And through a translator, he’s relayed the fact that he has no interest in cutting a deal.
Now, Wheaton, like many other small businesses and salon owners across the country, is trying to stay relevant through online profiles. She’s doing live chats, tutorials, web videos, even offering video instruction. It hasn’t been easy, given the type of service her she and her salon provide.
“It’s a personal services industry, so it’s harder to do any business through Zoom or anything like that, because we are a touch feel kind of business so it’s hard.. on all of us,” she said.
Wheaton is doing what she can to hold meetings with her stylists, to keep everyone engaged and motivated. She’s trying to remain positive even though there is seemingly no end to their shutdown.
“I don’t want these girls to worry. I don’t want these girls to suffer,” she said. “It’s really hard and hard on my heart that these girls have to go through this, and I worry about them more than myself.”
As sad as it is, Wheaton says she’s taking it one day at a time. She’s hoping product sales will get her and her employees through the next pay period.
And she’s reminding everyone that small businesses across the country need your support in every way.
In California alone, 917 stylists have pending licenses, meaning they were just about to launch their cosmetology career when the pandemic shut them down.