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Local hair salons, tattoo shops react to closure over coronavirus response

Local hair salons, tattoo shops react to closure over coronavirus response

“People are calling to see their appointments are still good,” said Paris Miseli, who books out sessions months ahead of time.
Local hair salons, tattoo shops react to closure over coronavirus response
Ralph Torkel, owner of Hair Design by Rolf on State Street in Schenectady is seen on March 20, 2020.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — Barber shops, nail salons and tattoo parlors are now closed indefinitely statewide.

Just hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the order on Friday, Paris Miseli bolted the door at Electric City Tattoo in downtown Schenectady. 

Business hadn’t taken a hit despite escalating actions by the state to contain the growing coronavirus pandemic.

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“People are calling to see their appointments are still good,” said Miseli, who books out sessions months ahead of time. 

Many barbershops had already begun to wind down operations ahead of the order. 

Wedgeway Barber Shop closed days earlier out of safety concerns.

When owner Dawn Taylor went in on Friday morning to grab some items, she was followed in by three service members seeking last-minute haircuts. 

“I don’t know how to say no,” said Taylor as she took a buzzer to a serviceman’s head.

Salons were ordered to close by Saturday night.

Employees for non-essential businesses were ordered to work from home by Sunday night, effectively shuttering many of them.

Grocery, liquor stores and pharmacies are exempt, and restaurants remain open for delivery and take-out only. 

Visits to a half-dozen salons revealed similar scenes of customers lined up and despondent owners.

Haddy Faye sighed as she braided a customer’s hair on Friday. 

“I don’t even have $10 in my bank account,” said Faye, owner of Haddy African Hair Braiding in the city’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood. “How am I going to survive?” 

The mother of five said she would apply for unemployment and food stamps, but wondered how to navigate state and federal bureaucracy. 

“It’s scary,” said the customer, Tina Brown. “All of these people cut off from work isn’t fair. They need to figure out something fast.”

Congress and the White House are continuing to hash out an economic relief package which includes paid sick and family leave and checks to households. 

At the same time, Cuomo has issued a 90-day stay on commercial and residential evictions

“By my mandate, you couldn't even have your real estate agent out showing the apartment,” Cuomo said. “Same with the commercial tenants. But I know that we're going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don't put them out of their house.”

Ralf Torkel, owner of International Hair Design by Ralf, said he understood the need to close, but said the salon already had strong sanitation protocols, including rubbing down virtually every surface in the building with disinfectant. 

“We’re already the cleanest in the Capital District,” Torkel said.

Torkel also questioned the effectiveness of the order, citing a revolving door of familiar clients who would simply cancel their appointments if they felt unwell, and the possible break-ins at closed businesses. 

Dozens of local businesses had already closed by Friday and Saturday as evident by shuttered storefronts. 

A man peered through the darkened window of Supercuts on Wolf Road on Saturday afternoon as customers for Trader Joe’s queued up outside. 

“What are you going to do?” he said. “I guess I’ll just have to be hairy for a month.”

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