THUNDER BAY — Since late December of last year, personal care services, including spas, salons, and other aesthetics services operated 11 days.
On Wednesday, they will be allowed to return to business and phones have been ringing off the hook.
Connie Bochko, owner of Connie’s Hair Design, is both relieved and a little stressed in trying to rebook her clients and says she is trying to be fair to everyone.
“I’m starting with the clients I had to cancel at the beginning of March and some that I just couldn’t get in during the two weeks I was open. Those are the customers that will be my priority to get in,” she said.
Bochko has operated her salon for almost 30 years and was able to acquire a grant and receive Canada Recovery Benefits (CRB) to stay afloat during the toughest times of the pandemic closures.
“I can’t image the stress, especially if you have a young family and you depend on your wages and not being able to obtain funding,” she said.
For her clients, Bochko is like a bartender at a favourite pub where people go and tell their stories to. For many, a visit with their hair stylist can be very therapeutic. For the elderly, it may be their only form of socializing.
“Mentally, I think this has affected a lot of people, and for a lot, it’s been a really difficult time. To come and get their hair cut is such an uplifting experience,” she said. “I know it’s just a haircut, but it’s amazing what it does for people. They have a chance to express how they have been feeling.”
Holly Luby, of Inception Exclusive Salon, is also feeling the stress of reopening but is excited to get back to work. With more than 100 clients on her wait list, and many more on her assistant’s wait list, scheduling is challenging.
She says there is so much to do to prepare the salon from cleaning and making sure everything is sanitized to stocking up on products — crediting her distributor for providing her with her stock.
“Retail sales weren’t what they used to be — and that was the the only thing that paid my utility bill, was my retail sales,” she said.
Luby was able to receive CRB but when she went online to change her Canada Revenue account to “direct deposit,” the system “red flagged” her and stopped her payments.
“I went without pay for seven pay periods,” she said. “I had to contact my MPP’s office and they went to bat for me and I finally got all my payments after having no income for a month and a half.”
Luby also didn’t qualify for any of the federal or provincial government grants because she is a new business that began in 2020 and had no 2019 revenue to “compare to.”
“(Ford) promised we would open in April and then cancelled at the last minute,” she said. “That was stressful because we scheduled all these people and had to say, ‘Oh, never mind.’”
Luby says it would be ideal to have been able to open in the first phase of the reopening of Ontario because Thunder Bay was relatively safe.
“We are not Toronto so why are we always getting roped into their numbers? It’s just not fair to our city. We have done such a good job keeping our numbers down and our vaccination rates were already past the province’s percentage,” she said. “Some people may think I had six months off to enjoy but what they don’t realize is that I have two young children and I have to work from home to keep my clients in contact with me so they don’t forget about me. I tried to do my best to market myself and hopefully I did OK.”
Luby has taken to social media appealing to her clients to have patience as they reopen.
As of Wednesday, personal care services can open to 25 per cent capacity to a maximum of five people. Appointments are required. Any service that requires the removal of a face covering is not permitted.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal