Windham Barber Shop stylist Kayla Fournier with a customer on Tuesday. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM — Since Windham Barber Shop owner Carolee Beaulieu reopened her doors on May 4, she been feeling “such a mix of emotions.”

She’s less concerned about her own health and more nervous for her customers.

“We’re doing everything we can, like sanitizing the doorknob after each customer and following all of the protocols,” she said.

Owner Carolee Beaulieu with a customer. Pre-pandemic, Windham Barber Shop was a walk-in business, but now it’s cutting hair by appointment only for safety reasons. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

But she’s had “a solid headache for two weeks,” going back and forth from feeling excited to feeling stressed, she said.

“On the one hand, I’m like, am I doing the right thing by opening? But on the other, so many people are so excited to get out … I feel like I’m providing a safe space (to do that).”

After remaining closed for six weeks, Beaulieu reopened her business last week as part of the first phase of the governor’s Plan to Restart Maine’s Economy.

The first phase gives barber shops, hair salons and pet groomers the green light, but leaves out businesses such as tattoo parlors, nail salons and other retails stores.

Beaulieu, who opened the Windham Barber Shop in 2012, said that before the pandemic hit, this was the first year she felt like her business was really growing.

“I was really excited and hopeful and then it all came crashing down,” she said.

Beaulieu said it’s hard to gauge how much money she lost during the shutdown. The shop was a walk-in business and the number of customers always varied from day to day. Now, it’s doing business by appointment only to allow for social distancing.

She was finally able to submit an application for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program on the same day she reopened. The filing process was made more difficult because she and the four other stylists are independent contractors and technically self-employed.

Even though she is working again, Beaulieu said the program will help her recoup lost wages from the six weeks she was out of work. But, she said, “now I almost feel guilty if I get accepted for unemployment … it’s been emotional.”

Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

She added, “I just feel blessed. It could have been a lot worse. I could be in another business.”

One of the stylists, Kayla Fournier, said she feels “great” about being back at work.

“I miss it … (It’s) nice to be able to have that balance back,” she said.

Fournier, a Standish resident, is the mother of three young children. Thankfully, she said, her husband was able to continue working throughout the stay-at-home orders, but it has “been a huge impact financially to go from two to one income.”

With their children at home, she and her husband try to keep opposite work schedules, and for now she’s only working one day a week. Tuesday was her second day back on the job. It’s “almost sad to come back because you have all that time with” the kids, she said, but then joked, “then you talk to your first adult in six weeks.”

All customers must wear masks and stylists sterilize their stations in between customers, Beaulieu said. Her customers have been good about complying with protective measures, she said, and her regulars have been very patient.

“Obviously they waited for me because the amount of hair I have on the floor is insane,” she said.

On Tuesday, Beaulieu chatted with customers about what they’ve been up to during quarantine. She laughed when one said that they’ve been working in their yard a lot. She said she’s heard that answer often.

Customer Steve Mason, gesturing at his hair, said he decided to venture out for a cut because “I was starting to look like a hobo.”

He added that he felt it was “safe enough” to go out, especially because “the number of cases is confined to a few places.”

Beaulieu said that she’s had a steady stream of customers since the reopening, from regulars to new customers. She thinks the new customers from other shops that haven’t reopened yet.

Even though “six weeks is a long time to have no money coming in,” she said, she thinks she’ll be able to bounce back financially.

“Honestly I feel like I have a new lease. It’s kind of exciting,” Beaulieu said.

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