Under Athens-Clarke County’s state of emergency order, only essential businesses such as banks, grocery stores and gas stations are allowed to continue normal business operations while complying with social distancing requirements.
Local beauty salons, barbershops, nail studios and other esthetic service store locations do not fall under the “essential” category, which means the businesses must limit their operations to a basic level — doors and stores must close, but the businesses can operate remotely and continue mailing goods and products to customers.
For many of these local business owners, closing up shop was not easy to do without an idea of what the future will hold for their salons.
Kori Oexmann, owner of Emporium Salon, had a limited number of her staff members working up until the night the ordinance was put in place. While making the decision to shut down, Oexmann sought out advice from her mother, who founded Emporium in 1989.
“We were in agreement that I needed to go with my gut and with what I felt was best for ourselves and our clients,” Oexmann said. “Her main advice for me was to avoid listening to random social media posts and just listen to facts.”
Since closing, Oexmann said that the most difficult part has been making sure she provides a good support system for her staff. The Emporium team has been keeping up with each other virtually, not only to discuss further business operations but to also support one another during this difficult time.
Carly McGuffey Salon has a small, close-knit staff of only three eyelash and eyebrow technicians, one of whom is owner Carly McGuffey, who has looked to her fellow team members for support while enduring the stress of finding new ways to engage with her client base.
McGuffey and her team created an online store for their website, all within the first two days of shutting down their salon. On this retail outlet, customers can shop for products such as eyelash serums, face masks and salon gift cards.
“[The online store] was definitely not in the works yet [by the time we closed]. It was just sort of an afterthought,” McGuffey said. “But the day we had to shut down I was like ‘Okay, I have to figure something out, or we’re not going to be able to reopen period.’”
In addition to her online store, McGuffey has used her salon’s social media as a way to stay connected with her clients. Through live Instagram videos of her doing yoga, cooking new recipes and keeping up with her beauty regimen. McGuffey has been using her online presence as a way to relate to her followers while social distancing.
A difficulty business owner Sue Ortiz encountered was the adjustment to her newfound downtime while normal business operations stalled. Sue Ortiz, founder of Styles at Five Salon, has found it hard getting used to the absence of her normally busy schedule.
“It's been hard just situating myself from being a busy person to just slowing down,” Ortiz said. “But in a way, it's also been good for me because it's given me time for family, self-care, walks with my dog and things like that.”
From a beauty standpoint, McGuffey noted that this period of time presents a great opportunity to practice self-care. Whether that means not wearing makeup to allow your skin to breathe or applying less heat on your hair, there are positive ways to spin this situation in terms of being able to do good things for your body.
“[This situation] it gives you perspective on all the things that we do to ourselves and to our bodies,” McGuffey said. “It makes you appreciate your own beauty a lot more when you have no choice other than to be your authentic self.”