‘Keeping clients comfortable’: Hair salons going the extra mile to please customers

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  • Luisa Reichenheim of Amherst gets a full-color treatment by Kim Rodrigo, co-owner of The Lift, in the North Amherst salon’s outdoor space last week. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Luisa Reichenheim of Amherst gets a full-color treatment by Kim Rodrigo, co-owner of The Lift, in the North Amherst salon’s outdoor space last week. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Luisa Reichenheim of Amherst gets a full-color treatment by Kim Rodrigo, co-owner of The Lift, in the North Amherst salon's outdoor space on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Luisa Reichenheim of Amherst gets a full-color treatment by Kim Rodrigo, co-owner of The Lift, in the North Amherst salon's outdoor space on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2020 7:36:55 PM

Fears about staying safe and healthy during the pandemic kept Alyson Miller from visiting an Amherst hair salon for several months.

But when The Lift Salon in the Mill District of North Amherst set up an area outdoors that replicated what it has been doing in the Trolley Barn for the past five years, Miller took the opportunity to return to get a haircut and hair wash in an open-air environment, all while watching the setting sun over the hills to the west.

“I am so thankful for their ingenuity and ability to make their clients feel safe while enjoying much-needed self-care,” Miller said, adding that, even while she and Lift co-owner Kim Rodrigo donned masks, it was the first time that things felt normal in a long time.

Not everyone will get the sunset view over the natural landscape while getting a haircut or having hair colored or conditioned, but Rodrigo said the aim has been to make clients comfortable.

“We’ve had such a good reaction,” Rodrigo said. “Everyone seems to love it, and it really means the most to people who haven’t been feeling safe.”

At the beginning of August, after salons and barbershops were allowed to reopen by the state in June, Rodrigo and her business partner Courtney D’Antonio invested in the outdoor setup, which included purchasing tents that protect people from the elements and provide privacy. The project also included stringing electrical cords and installing plumbing.

“The most expensive and time-consuming aspect was buying a sink to continue the service,” Rodrigo said, noting that a rinse is needed for anyone whose hair gets colored.

The new site for The Lift’s services features a mock chandelier hanging from the roof of the tent, and mirrors positioned against a wooden fence and the nearby greenery. There is also a small waiting area nearby.

“People have been calling to inquire about the outdoor space,” Rodrigo said.

Services inside and outside the building are no different. “We try to make it the same. We try to make it identical,” Rodrigo said.

But with only two stations, it means there are limits to how many customers can be served in a day, meaning that many customers still enter the salon.

Though Glamourama on Old South Street in Northampton remains strictly an indoor salon, manager Lynne Tuccillo said she and the stylists are taking all safety precautions necessary and required by the state. The salon has four chairs, but two are in cubbies and two are in the open, and all are more than six feet apart. Typically, only as many as three stylists work at a time, and the receptionist who schedules appointments is mostly able to work off site after getting the building ready each day.

Tuccillo said the challenge is in structuring the day, especially when doing color and bleachouts which are time-consuming and can require clients only in for a haircut to have their appointments delayed.

“You can’t overbook the day,” she said.

Clients continue to get to see Nicky the boa constrictor and Benny, a white pit bull owned by one of the stylists.

“Doing hair, the salon always had to be sanitized, but now we have to pick it up even more,” Tuccillo said.

The business now goes through bleach wipes on a regular basis, uses a lot of hand sanitizer, and has to wash capes regularly.

To make customers feel as safe as possible, the stylists are happy to oblige with various requests, such as putting on better masks or scheduling a person for the first appointment of the day. Each employee also does a self-temperature check upon arrival.

Glamourama has been able to keep the back window open to bring in fresh air and will be investing in an ultraviolet filter that kills viruses and germs. Tuccillo said business has been picking up as people recognize COVID-19 numbers are low in the area, but that with students back in the region the infection rates could go up.

“A lot of it has been about keeping clients comfortable,” Tuccillo said. “It’s more about being personable and having connections.”

At Carve Beauty Bar on Lincoln Street in Holyoke, capacity has been reduced below state and city mandates, sanitation is taking place after every appointment, employees and clients are having their temperatures taken and contactless check-in has been implemented to avoid queues at the entrance.

Haley Atkinson, the salon manager, and owners Lindsay Murphy and Tina Rigali, said they have been able to maintain all pre-pandemic services, along with a full menu of facial, eyelash extension and waxing services that are done by an esthetician in a private room.

The building is large enough that proper spacing can be done between clients and stylists, though people worried about being indoors are given options.

“We have been able to accommodate specialty requests for high-risk clients by coming in before or after business hours,” Atkinson said.

As days get shorter and the weather becomes cooler, Rodrigo isn’t sure how long outdoor services will last at The Lift, but she is willing to bring in heaters to see if that will extend the season. There are no lights to illuminate the space yet, though.

Still, the outdoor site has been worthwhile.

“To us, it feels it’s something good for them for them so they can be well cared for and to feel safe again,” Rodrigo said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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