With the most recent stay-at-home order lifted, many of the Santa Clarita Valley’s shuttered businesses can once again resume operations.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster for sure,” said Karen Encinas, co-owner of 8th & Main Hair Lounge.
Encinas and Kristy Kauk have co-owned the salon for two and a half years, with the past year proving to be the most challenging, as the health guidelines continue to evolve what seems like every few minutes.
“A lot of our girls have even just taken this week off, so that they can reschedule clients without feeling overwhelmed — because every single time we open back up, it’s chaos,” Encinas said.
On top of the appointments needing to be rescheduled from the closure, there’s been a large influx of new clients also trying to secure a spot.
Industry in flux
“A big problem with our industry right now is that so many salons are A) closing, but B) a lot of hair stylists have chosen to leave the industry for one reason or another,” Encinas added. “Now, what we’re seeing is a lot of clients around Santa Clarita being displaced.”
Encinas and Kauk have worked hard to build their team of stylists over the past couple of years, and they say they are lucky and grateful to have had all of them stick it through with them.
They were also grateful for even the short periods of time they were allowed to reopen between closures, as it allowed them to recover. “It could have been a different story had we not had those opportunities within the past year.”
However, the shutdowns have been especially difficult for their business as they, like many salons in the area, are rental-based — a business that has been somewhat overlooked when it comes to grants and COVID relief.
“There was the PPP loan, which we qualify for, but it wouldn’t have been forgiven, like a lot of other businesses,” Encinas said. “We don’t have employees, but we have all of the overhead, so I think that was the most difficult part for us to be able to navigate through so that we were still able to keep our doors open.”
Encinas hopes the reopening will be for good this time, and now with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Encinas remains hopeful — though those hopes may not be as high as they were in the past.
“We have a really great community on Main Street. A lot of the shop owners are all in communication with each other, and we had a lot of support from one another … so that’s also really nice and helpful,” Encinas added. “One of the reasons we chose this spot downtown was because we wanted a sense of community, and these are the times that it really benefits us, just to feel like we’re not alone. … Who would have known that we would have needed it this much — ever.”
Ginger Johnson took a unique business opportunity recently when she made the decision to purchase Expert Design Nails Hair Spa in Saugus last October.
“We were just looking for an opportunity, and my daughter was working there, but the salon has been closed … so we decided to purchase the salon that was having a difficult time, hoping that by the beginning of the year we would be (able to reopen),” the co-owner said.
When the reopening didn’t come as soon as they’d hoped, the costs began to add up with a remodel and additional expenses incurred ensuring they were in compliance with Public Health regulations.
“So for us, it’s a little bit different and difficult at the same time,” Johnson added.
Nevertheless, the co-owners have rebranded the business, changing its name to Ohana Beauty Spa, and are working to continue its revamp, adding services, ranging from a classic manicure and organic skin care and body contouring to pain management through cryotherapy.
“For us, it was an opportunity to be creative and actually invest our time to figure out how we were going to reopen and what additional services we could offer … so we’re very excited,” Johnson said, adding that they hope to not only entice old clients to come back, but also garner new ones.
Now, Johnson simply hopes there won’t be any further shutdowns, so she can really dive into her new business.
Though Abad Ruiz has had a difficult first year as the new owner of Bricks, a Newhall hamburger restaurant, he attributes his ability to stay afloat to his longtime work with the restaurant.
“It’s only been one year since I bought this place, though I’ve been here since 2012,” Ruiz said. “That’s the good part: I’ve been here a long time, so I already was familiar with everything. That’s why we’re still doing OK right now.”
When he purchased the restaurant last year, it was doing well, but shortly after the purchase came the first stay-at-home order and, since then, things have continued to be difficult.
“It’s super hard at the moment, but I mean, we will still be OK,” Ruiz added, sighing.
The gastropub offers custom burgers and has had some success with takeout orders. It’s also helped that the restaurant has its own website and an online ordering platform.
Even so, Ruiz said they’re looking forward to reopening their patio for outdoor dining, as they eagerly await the go-ahead to reopen completely.
“Finally, we are allowed to reopen a little bit … that’s a little help,” he added.
As the Newhall Press Room anticipates its reopening Friday, it’s also looking forward to welcoming its newest team member, Larry Bethea, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef.
The restaurant hopes to entice customers with new dishes, monthly specials and weekly wine events in addition to its wine club.
“We appreciate our community and the city of Santa Clarita for being so supportive of our employees and the overall restaurant business community,” co-owner Charles Potter said. “Over the next few weeks, we should be back to pre-shutdown outdoor capacity.”
The city is continuing to support its small businesses through both its Shop Local and Eat Local programs, which give businesses that need to operate outdoors due to current health orders free permits to do so, according to Jason Crawford, economic development director for the city.
“Those that have already received them are still active and can continue to operate with them, and any business that would need one is encouraged to reach out, and we will walk them through the process,” Crawford said.
In addition, the city is continuing to promote its Safer Business Commitment program, which allows restaurants and businesses in the community to make the commitment to follow safety guidelines set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Mayor Bill Miranda agreed that this is good news for both the SCV and the community’s economy.
“It’s going to put a lot of people back to work, which is good, but everything still hinges on us being safe, so we have to … wear masks, stay socially distant, wash our hands frequently, use disinfectant profusely and continue to observe as many quarantine rules as we possibly can,” Miranda added.
“Having said that, opening dining is a great idea. … It’s going to bring our community and our restaurants back to survival mode — they’re not going to be very profitable, but they’re going to be able to survive with these openings.”
For more information on the Shop Local and Eat Local programs, contact Crawford at [email protected].