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In desperate need of a trim: Island hair cutters reopen under new restrictions

Lance Shearer
Eagle Correspondent
Marci Pagano cuts Tom Britten's hair, as empty chairs help enforce social distancing at Rick's Island Salon and Day Spa on Wednesday. Hair salons and barbershops on Marco Island reopened Monday under new restrictions.

Marco Island has been in desperate need of a haircut — and for some women, to touch up their gray roots. Starting Monday, they got the chance.

Pursuant to Executive Order 20-120 issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 9, barbershops and hair salons reopened on May 11, under a combination of new mandatory restrictions and suggested guidelines to keep customers and workers safe.

The openings triggered a flood of business at island barbershops and hair salons, and a collective sigh of relief — through a protective face mask — by cosmetologists and barbers. The shops reported strong demand from a backlog of customers who had their appointments canceled during the lockdown, since their businesses were shuttered nearly two months ago.

At Miranda’s Hair World on Front Street, owner Miranda Ibishi Skinner said she and her staff are working longer hours to accommodate demand. Normal hours are 9 to 5, but she expected to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We’re super busy, we have a lot of people,” she said. But they are not able to do nearly as many procedures due to the new precautions.

“The difference is we’ve moved some chairs for social distancing, so we have fewer hairdressers – only two at a time, not four. We are checking temperatures when people walk in. We have to wear masks all day — I don’t like it.”

At Rick’s Island Salon and Day Spa at the Esplanade, customer Tom Britten was having his hair cut by stylist Marci Pagano — in the nick of time, he said.

“I looked like a shaggy sheepdog. I told Marci she would have to scrap all her tools when she’s done with me.”

The stylist may not have to throw her implements, but she will have to clean everything between appointments, which is another consideration slowing down business and cutting into profits. The mandatory restrictions stipulate “all customers will be by appointment only,” and shops must “allow at least 15 minutes between the completion of an appointment and the beginning of the next appointment for proper disinfecting practices.”

In addition, with everyone’s locks having grown longer during the salons and barbershops’ enforced idleness, each haircut takes more time. And for people getting their hair colored, it takes more dye, said co-owner Rick Popoff. “We’re going through a lot more product.”

Rick’s is taking the cleaning and social distancing restrictions very seriously, said Rick and Lisa Popoff, with disinfecting stations set up in the shop, a waiting area where customers can sit with safe spacing before their appointments, and stringent cleaning protocols between customers. After each one, an assistant does “a complete wipedown, with the appropriate mix of bleach and Barbasol.” In line with the state guidelines, magazines and other reading material have vanished from waiting areas.

Dealing with government mandates is nothing new for them, said Rick Popoff.

“Our industry as a whole is very strongly regulated, by the board of licensing and regulation, the Cosmetology Board, and the Health Department. We get regular inspections by all three.” The biggest change for them, he said, is “wearing these face masks all the time.”

They are also working times they would typically have been closed, including Sundays and the upcoming Memorial Day.

“We’ve all had six weeks off — who needs another day off? We’re happier being open,” said Lisa Popoff. Instead of their regular staff of 22 on a given day out of their full component of 25 workers, Rick’s is down to 10 employees at a time.

How shaggy and overgrown any one individual became during the enforced lockdown was a bit of a lottery, depending on whether one had just had a haircut before the “cutoff,” or was one of those who found out their scheduled visit was canceled indefinitely.

At Marco Island Barbershop, customer Gareth Marsh said he was one of those in dire need.

“This was the longest I’ve ever gone without a haircut,” said the British native as owner Alla Kravchenko cut his hair. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else — they all do a fantastic job here, and it’s important to support local businesses.”