It’s been nearly four months since Jason Thomas last got a professional hair cut, so waiting more than an hour for a seat inside Joe’s Barber Shop in Place d’Orléans last Saturday was worth every clip of his barber’s scissors.
“I let my wife give me a trim back in May, I think it was, but it didn’t turn out too good so to finally get a real cut is nice. It’s been too long,” said Thomas referring to both his hair and having to wait through the latest COVID-19 shutdown.
Joe’s Barber Shop has been only taking walk-ins since barbershops and hair salons were allowed to reopen on June 30.
For the first three days, the line-up to get inside snaked through the mall resulting in waiting times of up to an hour and a half.
Under the reopening guidelines, barber shops and hair salons can only accept up to five clients at a time and face masks have to be worn at all times.
Inside Joe’s, the barbers work non-stop trying to get to as many clients as they can before closing the doors for the day. At the end of the day last Saturday, the hair on the floor filled a regular-sized garbage bag. It was the third or fourth time the floors had been swept that day.
Despite cutting hair all day, a semi-exhausted Pam Bruce could still manage a smile on her face.
“It’s been busy, but it’s a good busy,” said Bruce. “Everyone has been really patient and very appreciative to finally get their hair cut.”
The scene inside Joe’s Barber Shop last Saturday has been repeated at other barber shops and hair salons in Orléans for the past week.
“It was like this for at least three weeks after the last two shutdowns,” says BruceTwist Hair Design on St. Joseph Blvd. is fully booked until the end of July.
For the first couple of days before the salon reopened, owner Loren Brown-Joachim spent most of her time returning phone calls for reservations. The phone calls continued through Wednesday and Friday. (The salon was closed on Canada Day.)
“At one point we had 28 messages in a two-hour span,” said Brown-Joachim. “But everyone has been very patient and very respectful. They understand that it may take awhile for an appointment.”
Interestingly enough, some salons have a no-COVID conversation rule during the reopening, meaning you can’t talk about the pandemic during your visit. You can talk about anything else, but not COVID. At Twist, the pandemic is still an open topic.
“People want to talk about it, so why not?” says Brown-Joachim, who was a vocal advocate for salons being allowed to stay open during the shutdown.
“Hair care is an essential service,” Brown-Joachim argues. “I have one elderly client who can’t raise her arms past her shoulders, so she can’t wash her own hair. She comes here to get her hair done.”
In another example demonstrating how hair care can be an essential service, Brown-Joachim got a special request from a client during the lockdown.
“She was in the final stages of cancer and she wanted me to do her hair before she died,” says Brown-Joachim. “She said, ‘I’m not going to be able to make it to July 2. I don’t want to go to Heaven looking like this. Can you come to my house?’”
Brown-Joachim broke the COVID rules and went to the women’s house to honour her request. Four days later, the client passed away. Shortly after reopening, the women’s cousin came to the salon to personally thank Brown-Joachim.
“I’m not telling you this to toot my own horn. I’m telling you because that’s how essential we are,” says Brown-Joachim.
'Next door at Fadi’s Barber Shop, co-owner Mahdy Alwes, is thrilled to finally be able to cut his client’s hair after doind renovations for the past two months. In fact, Fadi’s never really closed. They took over the space from the previous owners of the Capital Barber Shop, which like a number of barber shops and hair salons, wasn’t able to survive the pandemic.
Although Fadi’s is a new business, they have been extremely busy since hair care services were allowed to reopen on June 30.
A number of their customers from their Findlay Creek location have been willing to drive to Orléans to get their hair cut sooner rather than later.