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Barber shops, salons, retail shops start to reopen in NH

  • Richard O'Brien, of Bradford, Vt., receives a haircut from Karla Wilhite at Colonial Barber Shop in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 11, 2020. The shop and other New Hampshire hair salons were allowed to reopen on Monday, following restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A hair mannequin wears a facemask at Le Salon 34 in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 11, 2020. The shop and other New Hampshire hair salons were allowed to reopen on Monday, following restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Colonial Barber Shop owner and barber Tracey Barber disinfects the shop's door following a customer's departure in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 11, 2020. The shop and other New Hampshire hair salons were allowed to reopen on Monday, following restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/11/2020 8:56:13 PM
Modified: 5/12/2020 11:58:18 AM

WEST LEBANON — The Colonial Barber Shop off Route 12A looked a little different this week; signs urging people to wear masks lined the glass windows, a 32-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer sat just inside the door and the shelves were empty of their usual collection of magazines and toys.

But Monday morning, for the first time in nearly two months, a customer sat in one of the chairs.

“I’m so excited,” owner Tracey Barber said of her decision to start cutting hair again this week. “It was hard to come here and see the lights out and the empty shelves…. It was hard to walk away.”

Hers is one of several businesses that opened their doors to customers Monday for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 temporarily closed all non-essential businesses in late March.

In a May 1 order, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu allowed the restricted reopening of hair salons, barber shops, retail stores and drive-in movie theaters this week.

Listen Community Services on Monday also said it is making plans to re-open its thrift stores in Lebanon and Canaan in early June and was awaiting further guidance from Vermont officials.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Monday said retail stores could open next week in Vermont at 25% capacity, with various health and safety requirements in place.

In West Lebanon, Sununu’s order has especially impacted salons and barbershops, many of which saw a rush in customers clamoring for a cut Monday.

That’s the case for Barber, who said that she announced plans to reopen on the Colonial Barbershop’s website and Facebook group last week and immediately started fielding calls from regulars wanting a haircut. Now, her schedule is booked with appointments through the next two-and-a-half weeks, and she expects to book for the rest of the month soon.

But that doesn’t mean business is completely back to normal. Per the governor’s orders, Barber has had to implement safety measures, like only seeing one client per hairdresser at a time and not accepting walk-in appointments.

She and employees also regularly wipe every item and chair down with disposable wipes, require everyone to wear a mask, and use disposable plastic smocks instead of the traditional cloth ones while cutting a client’s hair.

Barber isn’t alone in her extra safety precautions. At Just Paradise on South Main Street, owner Eden Levesque is taking the same kinds of measures since opening up again on Monday.

She said customers make appointments ahead of time and call when they arrive at her salon. They’re let in alone — no friends or family present — and hairdressers have to complete their appointment within an hour, Levesque said.

That means their shop can’t offer some services, like tanning and time-intensive coloring, Levesque said. But even without those services, the salon is booked.

“We’re extremely busy,” Levesque said. After a month of seeing no revenue, the response from the community has been a boon to the small business, she said.

But she hopes her shop will be able to fully resume normal operations by June.

“We’re not operating at our full potential,” Levesque said. “My biggest concern is being able to pay taxes.”

Some Upper Valley residents, like Alex Tsouknakis of Pomfret, are eager for businesses to open up now, without restrictions.

Tsouknakis, who runs Woodstock Pizza Chef, arrived at the Yankee Barber Shop on Route 12A for a haircut on Monday. He said he hopes for a return to normalcy.

“We can’t go on like this. If you’re healthy, you don’t need a mask,” Tsouknakis said, adding that if a person isn’t feeling well they should just stay home. “I’m ready (to reopen).”

Weathersfield resident Flo-Ann Dango, who stopped by Just Paradise for a haircut Monday, said she feels for employees and owners who are losing money because their businesses are shut down. She thinks businesses should begin reopening, but with the right safety precautions in place.

“I think we can do it,” said Dango, the longtime Weathersfield town clerk.

Her hope was echoed by Vanessa Perron, who owns Vanessa’s Salon off Route 12A, and who petitioned Sununu in late April to allow salons to reopen this month.

She opened with similar regulations as her neighboring salons Monday, allowing three stylists and three clients in her salon at a time, and only offering haircuts and touch-ups to root hair color.

“I’m ecstatic that we’re open. Our clients are more than ready,” Perron said, adding that she is hopeful they’ll be able to offer full services within the next two months. “The economy needs to get back and rolling.”

Her client, Trish Estrada, who got a color touch-up Monday, said she’s supportive of a slow opening that includes safety precautions. She was glad to see Vanessa’s Salon taking those precautions by cutting back on the number of people allowed in the salon Monday.

“It’s not the whole set up with a lot of people and magazines,” Estrada said. “But it’s a great feeling to be able to see your hairdresser.”

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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