(PHOTO: SUPREME CUT BARBERSHOP) As lockdown restrictions begin to ease up around the province, barbershop owners are preparing themselves for opening day as soon as they receive their greenlight. Supreme Cut Barbershop owner, Flory Wembolwa, said that he won’t have a problem filling the shop once it’s open. “Some people are requesting to be first when we get back from quarantine,” said Wembolwa. “So it’s something that’s high in demand.”
To celebrate opening day, Wembolwa has launched a Post Quarantine Supreme Care Package, a ticket that enables exclusive access to the first 30 slots available to those who purchase online. This works on a first come first served basis until all the slots sell out. For the price of $64, the care package includes a haircut and wash, beard maintenance, hot toweling and a black mask. As this article was being published, all 30 slots sold out.
Wembolwa says he'll be implementing stricter measures in order to ensure the safety of his clients, employees, and himself. Supreme Cut Barbershop will no longer be crowded and customers will not be waiting for their turn in the designated waiting area. It’s now highly encouraged to book appointments online since walk-ins will not be permitted.
Online bookings will also follow instructions customers need to follow upon arrival and during their appointment such as social distancing and properly washing their hands. “There’s a pandemic outside and we have to make sure that everybody’s safe and taking all the precautions,” said Wembolwa. “There’s going to be a new norm.”
For some, like Prince The Barber from All My Sons Hair of Art Studio, the new norm has been his norm all along. “We’ve always had an appointment only system and rarely take walk-ins. But this will be a big adjustment for barbers and clients who enjoy the social aspect of the barbershop environment. However we have found that the appointment only system allows the barber and client to build stronger rapport which has kept clients less likely to bounce around from shop to shop.”
Prince says he’ll also be implementing new safety measures with barbers wearing masks, plastic shields, and gloves. He says a sanitization station will be set up at the entrance of the shop and he’ll be posting signage on any updates around COVID-19. “Because of the intimacy of our store (size) and the appointment system in effect, we will not be creating plastic cubicles for stations whereas some shops have already started putting this into play. More than the transitions that need to be in place, I strongly believe all barbershops - because of dealing with clients skin to skin - need to be willing and ready to be consistent in disinfecting tools and stations.”
For Hill Studio Salon, owner Allison Hill said she will enforce stricter rules with customers too, in order to avoid having people waiting or lining up outside for their appointments. Hill said designated waiting areas will also be diminished for now, in order to continue practicing the social distancing rules. “If you’re running late for your appointment, that means that the person behind you is now going to get messed up,” said Hill. “Not in a way where they can kind of sit there and wait, now they have to wait outside.”
In terms of protection and safety, both Wembolwa and Hill will require their employees to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves. Wembolwa says safety is his top priority and he wants to ensure staff takes that seriously. “I don’t want to get into work the first day and things are not working well,” said Wembolwa. “I want them to understand what’s going on.”
Hill agrees and says, “At the end of the day, yes we do hair and hair is important, but not more important than our lives,” said Hill.
Aside from that, the owners say they look forward to going back to work and seeing their peers and clients again.
Hill said she’s excited to reopen her salon, “I miss my friends, I miss my clients, the excitement and the environment we have at Hill [Studio],” said Hill. “I’m excited to see my community again.”
Wembolwa said reopening his barbershop will be a moment of joy, and he thinks the temporary closure will create more appreciation between both business owners and clients.
“It was just a good lesson for all of us, the barbers specifically, to prepare yourself for rainy days,” said Wembolwa. “The customers are going to understand now how important we are.”
Tiffany Mongu is a multimedia Congolese/Canadian journalist, in the city of Toronto. She’s written news pieces for the Ryersonian, the Eyeopener, HeyBlackGirlTO & Blog TO. Tiffany was also a television reporter for RUtv News, a news anchor for News in a Minute & the Ryersonian.