Salon owners urge governor to reopen the industry

Frank Rizzieri owns a chain of salons, spas and beauty schools in New Jersey and Florida. He’s reopened in Florida, but is one of many salon owners frustrated that Gov. Phil Murphy hasn’t reopened salons in New Jersey.

“I opened our salon in Florida and I put extremely high level of standards with masks, temperature checks, all the things to be the best that we can be,” Rizzieri said.

Many around the state have protested. One business owner who started a Facebook coalition says that hundreds of salons, barbershops and gyms plan to open their doors on June 1, regardless of the governor’s orders.

“I would just say to folks, you’re playing with fire. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it has to be done the right way and at the right time. And I think we’re going to, if you bear with us over the next few days, we’ll give some more guidance,” Murphy said at his daily press briefing on Thursday.

Rizzieri says staying closed at this point is hurting the state and creating a beauty black market.

“So you’re getting a double whammy. You’re going to lose your tax revenue and then you’re going to possibly spread the virus more because there’s no protection,” he said.

Dina Debari owns a small salon in Secaucus with eight employees who were all laid off when they closed in March.

“I want the state to trust us. I feel like if I can go into a Dollar Tree or a supermarket, that we can be trusted to keep people 6 feet apart. We are hoping to open at a much lower capacity, even 30% would be great. If we can have two people in at a time, we would have masks, our gloves. We already follow so many safety protocols that we have to, by the state, so I know we could do a good job,” said Dina Debari.

Debari started making candles from home and selling them online for income. This week she started selling curbside so her staff could work, as well.

“One of my stylists is making t-shirts, I have the candles here. We’re selling make up and hair color kits. We’re trying to just do something to keep our connection with each other and the town,” she said.

To makeup for economic losses so far, Debari plans to expand the workday when they do reopen to accommodate for fewer clients at a time.

But not all stylists are excited to come back under the required conditions.

“I am making more money by collecting unemployment,” said Jamie, who wished not to be shown on camera. “And then the protocol that I have to do to go back seems like more work and less money because we’re being monitored as far as how many clients we’re going to do. So as a hairdresser, we’re not going to make our potential money. We will be very much at a disadvantage.”

Jamie’s also worried about her health, especially in the fall as people get comfortable and relax safety protocols.

But some clients are ready to come back.

“I would come back and go in there right now and get my hair done,” said Jenna Dry.

Unlike some businesses that say they’ll need a few weeks to reopen, salons say they’ll be ready to go the minute the governor makes the call.