“We had more clients than we could handle,” Richard Stone said about how well his business Orbit Hair in Lewiston was doing before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Stone said he and his stylists would see 60 clients a day on Fridays and Saturdays. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Hair salons and barbershop customers find themselves with a decision to make: wait for businesses to reopen to fix their long locks, shaggy hairlines, discolored roots and chipped nails or take matters into their own hands.

Brenda Henry of Sabattus visits Orbit Hair every eight weeks. “I’m now going o’natural,” she said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Gov. Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order at the end of March shut down nonessential services or activities, including cutting, styling and coloring hair, trimming beards and manicuring nails.

Brenda Henry of Lewiston, a client of Richard Stone’s Orbit Hair Stylings in Lewiston, said she schedules appointments, without fail, every eight weeks to get her hair cut and colored.

The stay-at-home order has her facing what she called “a female crisis.”

“I need to look beautiful, and right now, the grays are out there,” Henry said. “I refuse to use a box to color my hair, and now, because of COVID-19, I have to wait.”

Henry said the salon livestreamed demonstrations on how to cover up roots with scarves or bandanas but “I couldn’t figure it out.”

“I’m using a headband, which is fine for the moment, but it’s going to get worse,” Henry said. “I told the salon that I want to be first on the list of appointments.”

Christine Eirby, another regular at Orbit Hair Stylings, said she last visited the salon Feb. 20, and “won’t have anyone touch my hair (except) Richard.”

“I’m waiting it out,” she said. “I’m a faithful client.”

Stone, who employs 11 people, said he has been able to keep one person employed full-time through the shutdown by relying on a special marketing campaign.

“We’re selling conditioners mixed with specific hair color tones and shipping it to people,” he said. “People will text us photos of their hair and we’ll formulate hair coloring into the conditioner to match the color of their hair.”

He said the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the first time he’s had to see his business through a period of uncertainty.

“I started the salon in 2002 and moved to Lewiston in 2007, and right after we moved, that’s when the recession hit,” Stone said. “I made it through the recession by selling everything in my house. I’ve been through this sort of paranoia before, and after that, I had the forethought to save my pennies for a rainy day, just in case something like that happened again.”

However, some salon owners, including Angela Bontempo, who runs Two Lips Hair Salon in Lewiston, said the stay-at-home order has her questioning whether she’ll be able to stay open if the order extends past April 30.

Sales from custom conditioner that matches a client’s hair color has allowed Richard Stone to keep one full-time employee on board. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

She said when COVID-19 first began making its way through Maine, she “wasn’t phased about the loss of income and surely didn’t fathom the thought of having to close my business.”

“If I didn’t have my husband, I’d be moving back home at this point and shutting my salon doors,” Bontempo said. “If I don’t get help financially from the government, then I’ll close my shop on May 1.”

Bontempo said the governor’s order “includes no visiting one-on-one for hair appointments at my home or (clients’ homes).”

“Personally, I’d rather not expose myself just for someone’s hair color or cut,” Bontempo added. “It’s a superficial want. It’s not necessary.”

In an effort to be proactive, Bontempo said she applied for 14 jobs over the past two weeks, but the businesses who called back said they were “holding off on interviewing until it’s safe to lift the quarantine.”

Some of her clients said they’re willing to wait until the order ends before doing anything to their hair.

“As a client, basically, I’m just going to rock long hair until I can get it cut,” said Drew Dickinson.

Amanda Richardson, who also considers herself a regular client of Bontempo, said it has been three weeks since her last hair and nail appointment and her “nails are a mess.”

“Right now, my nails are in need of a fill, and if this (stay-at-home order) goes past the 30 days, I’ll end up taking (the nails) off,” Richardson said.

She said her husband and son “need a haircut desperately,” adding, “I’ll end up having to attempt it myself.”

“I think, unfortunately, women in today’s world are expected to look a certain way,” Richardson said. “This pandemic is tough for everyone.”

Krista Spring, a cosmetologist who works at Jewlz Beyond Hair in Naples, wrote on Bontempo’s Facebook page that she had to walk her sister through giving a haircut by using the FaceTime application on her phone.

Brigitte Whitten, who has been self-employed for seven and a half years at Hairbenders on Center Street in Auburn, said her clients “are pretty loyal and most will not attempt to do their own hair.”

“My clients are not just clients to me; they are friends and some have become like family to me,” Whitten continued. “They know they can reach out and I’ll help them if I can.”

Bontempo said despite the closure of salons, people shouldn’t worry about the color of their roots showing or their hair growing out.

“Who’s going to see their hair anyways?” Bontempo asked with a laugh. “If they’re supposed to be staying home and it’s gray, everyone will understand why.”

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