THUNDER BAY — It’s been a long road to reopening for many frustrated personal care service providers and this Wednesday, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The second phase of reopening Ontario gets into gear, clearing the way for personal care services to emerge after being allowed open for 11 days earlier this year.
Erika Maki, aesthetician, instructor and owner of A Spa For You, made the best out of the closure time to improve her business by using her time productively.
“We gave the spa a cleaning of a lifetime and because we operate a school through the spa, we developed a few new course curriculums and submitted that to the ministry,” said Maki. “I took online courses, one of then in sanitation protocols.”
Both Maki and her daughter Jasmine went into work every morning at 10 a.m. and came home at five taking a one-hour lunch as though it were a normal work day.
“Instead of looking at things negatively, even with the large financial impact on us, I woke up every morning and asked, ‘What can I do today?’ We were proactive and basically cleaned and trained,” she said.
A coffee shop located inside the spa was lost during COVID so the pair converted the space into another classroom.
Maki was able to take advantage of government grants, funding through a women-in-business, government initiative through PARO and trained with Digital Mainstream during the closure.
“We’re ready,” said Maki. “I brought back my staff first than I’ll bring myself back in because they need work and I respect that.”
Looking at the wide picture, Maki wonders if there will be a rush back to the spa.
“Unfortunately, we have been massively hit in our industry and yes it can be reopened, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot to get back up and running because people aren’t comfortable coming back . . . and they are really not needing to,” she said. “There are no weddings, no grad ceremonies. People don’t need to have their nails done, they are (still) working from home and don’t need to look pretty,” she said. “A lot of people aren’t investing in themselves because they don’t need to invest in themselves because of what’s happened. They have lost jobs and there’s not a lot of money either.”
Staffing in all sectors has also become an issue.
“This whole industry has lost a lot of staff because people just couldn’t make it though and they moved on to other careers. We as personal service workers, we will certainly need people to re-train in our industry because we have lost a lot,” she said, adding that they always have had difficulty finding people to hire.
“Which is why, I started my own school. There just wasn’t anywhere to fully train. Yes, there are people who did nails or who did lashes, but you can’t be a one-hit-wonder in this industry. You need to be multi-faceted. You need to be able to do waxing, facials, nails, and lashes, and pedicures, and makeup lessons.”
Maki considers Thunder Bay too small of a population base for them to survive doing just one thing.
“I have always found it very challenging to find staff that is multi-faceted so I always train my own staff and eventually just started my own school to help with that,” she said.
“I’m a trooper and I will survive this and I will work hard to make it happen. Our priority is bringing the students back who couldn’t come to class. We finished all the theory but with the practical, there is no way you can teach things like waxing without a human being with hair.”
With Thursday being a statutory holiday, A Spa For You will not open Wednesday, and will open on Monday instead.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal