SCV barbershops, hair and nail salons making it work outdoors

Customer Guillermo Tayean, seated gets a hair cut from stylist Maribel Rodriguez in the rear parking lot at Maria Argelia's Beauty Salon in Newhall on Wednesday, Augus19, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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From lockdowns to reopening and closures once more, Santa Clarita Valley barbershops, as well as hair and nail salons — which are among those hardest hit by the everchanging COVID-19 regulations issued by government officials — are struggling along with countless other service industries statewide. 

The first shutdown came in March in both Los Angeles County and the state, with no sign of when the economy could reopen. Relief came for many when the state granted the county permission to resume indoor services at these locations in mid-June. 

“We were closed for 70 days when the first shutdown happened,” Argelia Barcenas, owner of Maria Argelia’s Beauty Salon on Main Street in Old Town Newhall, said in Spanish. “When we got the OK to open again — that meant everything to me and the girls,” she said, referring to her coworkers

But one month later, as California experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, businesses were ordered to shut down again unless they could modify operations outdoors. 

Changes have not been an easy feat for business owners and employees alike, but many are making it work as best as they can — and looking toward a possible revision to the state health order that may soon allow them to return indoors.

‘We took the governor’s word’

Maria Argelia’s salon scrambled to transition their indoor services outside to keep the momentum they had regained in June after several months of no operations. The business reopened on Aug. 10 with four stations in the parking lot behind their storefront. 

“We took the governor’s word that we could stay open if we can make it work outside, and the city helped us make it happen,” said Barcenas. 

After applying for a permit with the city and receiving their permission, as well as from the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the hairdressers got right to work. 

Owner Argelia Barcenas prepares hair color for a customer in the rear parking lot at Maria Argelia’s Beauty Salon in Newhall on Wednesday, Augus19, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It took a lot of spending — after spending for the first reopen to make adjustments — and lots of sacrifice. We tried as best as we could to make a setup that is safe and clean for both the clients and my employees,” said Barcenas. “It’s not been that easy, but God has been good to us and given us the wisdom to work it out.” 

Separated at least 6 feet from each other, the stations are set up under 10-by-20-foot tents to provide shade and area near evaporative coolers. Just as was the case when they resumed indoor services, the salon doubled down on disinfecting and sanitizing, said Barcenas. 

Services look very different: clients wait their turn in their vehicles, go indoors briefly with their hairdresser for a quick hair wash and must wear face masks at all times. Despite the challenges, clients understand and are supporting the business, Barcenas said. 

“We’re grateful that our clients are very conscious of current conditions and that they understand that we’re doing our best to provide them a service while keeping them as safe and comfortable as possible,” she said. 

Desperate for haircuts 

The return to work, despite the limitations, was “a huge relief” for Jennifer Buchalla, a local hairstylist and makeup artist who has worked multiple industries including film and television, runways, special effects and weddings. 

But because she doesn’t have her own studio or salon to return to and make adjustments for outdoor services, Buchalla has had to get creative. 

“Outdoor environments are tough, and it’s not ideal, but it’s been working out,” she said. “I go to my clients, and we set up outside in their front or backyards. I bring a chair, table and everything else I may need.”

Her items also include face masks, gloves, sprays and disinfecting wipes. 

“If a client wants to do color, they go inside and wash themselves. It’s time-consuming; it’s not ideal, but it’s safer. We try to find safe solutions,” she said. “People have been very thankful that I go. It’s not the same relaxing experience if you’d go to a salon or spa, but a lot of people don’t care about luxury; they just want their haircut.” 

People are desperate for haircuts, especially men, she said. And Alfonso Montejano, owner of Mane Cave Barbershop on Soledad Canyon Road, agreed. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls, people need their haircuts,” Montejano said. 

The shop, with nine chairs inside, is down to one, with one barber operating outdoors under a canopy behind the building. 

“We’re still limited from an outdoors standpoint but we’re being creative,” he said.

‘Yes, we’re open’ 

It’s fair to question whether a business is closed or open these days, but Ann Do, the owner of Terrific Nails in Canyon Country, said she’s thankful to say when people call: “Yes, we’re open.” 

“It’s very difficult to work outside because of the heat and chemicals but we are open,” she said. “We opened on July 19 after the first shutdown in March and only worked two weeks and had to close again. We need to survive, so we’re doing it with what we have.” 

The nail salon has tables and chairs outdoors and sets up with measures to physically distance clients, as well as provide sanitizing materials. 

“Clients are happy, and I’m happy to be able to work, even if it’s outside,” Do said. 

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