As of April 24, Georgia allowed nail and hair salons to re-open. We asked Kimberly Jones, owner and technician at The Nail Society Salon & Spa in Buford, about the re-opening process. Jones has owned her salon for five years and the salon has won numerous local awards, including Best of Gwinnett. Prior to shutting down, she had a full book.
The Shut Down
NAILS: When did you close your doors?
KJ: We decided to close on March 20. There was a lot of pressure, and we wanted to do what was best. We wanted to lead by example because we felt people weren't taking the virus seriously. A week later the governor ordered the shut down.
NAILS: What did you do while you were shut down? What was the process of notifying everyone, etc.?
KJ: I contacted all our clients via email (we use Vagaro) and called them as well. At first, we didn't know how long we would be closed so we told them it would be at least two weeks. I had my accountant begin the paperwork for loan applications a week after the governor told salons to shut down. We raised money for the shop by starting a raffle. We raised almost $500! The raffle is for a $100 gift card and goes until April 30th. We aren't selling as many tickets any more since we re-opened. We also had a lot of clients call and pay for services. One said, “Thanks for years of therapy.” To be honest, I considered closing when all this started, but seeing the love from our clients stopped me from closing for good.
NAILS: Tell me more about your accountant. That's such a smart idea to have him/her tackle the loan paperwork for you.
KJ: The first year I opened shop I hired an accountant. He handles my business and personal finances. I'm big on time management. I had to focus on marketing and organizing curbside pick-up to make money while the salon was closed. Having an accountant manage finances while I focus on other areas of the business is a huge help. Factor the cost of that accountant into the cost of your prices.
NAILS: Do you know how much money you lost while shut down?
KJ: I don’t yet. I don’t want to think about it. A guesstimate would be around $4,000. But I didn’t spend any money either while in quarantine.
NAILS: How did you stay in touch with your coworkers and clients?
KJ: We decided to stay active on social media and to keep involved and engaged with our clients. We got the most engagement out of the Facebook Lives we did. I did Facebook check-ins with my clients to see how they were doing and called it a "virtual nail appointment." We didn’t announce the salon closure on our website because we figured the whole country knew anyway, so we stuck to social media.
NAILS: How did you tackle re-opening?
KJ: Nicole, Emily and I had begun talking about it before it was official. We were scenario playing the whole time, finding out what everyone was comfortable with. Once the governor said we could open, it happened fast. I was watching his speech and the minute he said "Re-open the nail salons" I got 30 texts. I was on the phone from 4-10 on Wednesday. So basically we had two days to pull this together.
The first thing we did was send an auto reply out to everyone. Something along the lines of "Thank you and be patient as we wait for protocol."My social media person put a post on Facebook immediately. Once those messages went out everyone backed off and waited patiently. First, we had to call the wave of clients who we canceled during those first two weeks. Then we began calling clients who were trying to get in. We did some calls from potential new clients wanting to come in after they saw we were open, probably because they just wanted to go out and do something, but we turned them away for the time being. We are giving clients who we have seen regularly within the last four months the priority. We are still sheltering in place, so not all our clients felt comfortable coming back yet. No one was upset with us for opening though.
We changed our pedicure policy to only doing one at a time because of our set-up. Our clients also have to text us to get in. We locked the front door for the first week only. I did this after consulting with my friend who is a cop. He said it probably was in violation of fire code (there's only one entrance to the salon), but they probably won’t get me on it, so we locked the door as a barrier, for the first week only. Because we know the virus is airborn, we took retail down and put it in drawers; there's no food or magazines or refreshments either, so the salon is easier to clean. It's not hard to open back up, it's just re-measuring and typing up all the protocals. I have a friend who helped get us the face shields. I saved 100 masks just for re-opening.
NAILS: How many days have you been re-opened? What do your books look like now?
KJ: We are calling this a soft opening. We stay within five to six clients a day. This was based on the math on masks and the wipes to sustain a business safely. We aren't accepting new clients until May 12. A lot of places actually didn't re-open until Monday, the 27. I reached out to those who did reach out to me and explained I am not accepting new clients until May 12 – and everyone's been super cool about it.
NAILS: Has your menu or prices changed?
KJ: Yes, right now we are just offering basic manicures and pedicures. I did do an LCN procedure, but without warm towels. I'm also not using hot mitts. I raised my prices $5. Everyone understands. This is to offset the cost of cleaning supplies. We are wearing face shields for manicuring and we don't have a sneeze guard. We allow 15 minutes between each client to take off the face shield and clean it.
NAILS: There's been some negativity on social media surrounding the salons that re-opened. How do you address that?
KJ: I knew if I got the chance to re-open my space, it would be safer and cleaner than most grocery stores. It already was safe and clean before. My salon is a space that's more controllable. I felt comfortable to re-open with the support from my clientele, some of whom are high-risk, and they’re even excited to come back! That inspires confidence. I'm just trying to pay attention to all my mentors. I spoke with my insurance and even an attorney. I contacted each of my clients and I know they are OK with me re-opening.
NAILS: Do you think the current precautions and attention to sanitation will last?
KJ: I want to say yes to a more sanitary society, but a lot of people went back to the salons where they were going. I know someone who went back to her salon and they just gave her some alcohol to disinfect when she walked in the door and she was still able to touch the polish. Some people will change, probably those who knew someone who had the virus. I think if you continue to raise the bar and your standards it will come back 10-fold.
NAILS: Do you know someone who didn’t re-open?
KJ: Yes, there's a hair salon across the street from us that didn't re-open. The owner felt it was too controversial. She took some clients on her own to see how it went, but she has 10-15 stylists to think of.
NAILS: What are your biggest takeaways from this exeprience?
KJ: I'm a 20 year veteran in this industry and I have to say I enjoyed this time off and don’t want to go back to the crazy hours I was woking before. I need to make a financial plan to figure out how many clients I should take now to maintain hours that aren't so crazy. I found out who I was again. I got to garden and go on walks.
I would say, take more business classes after this. Factor everything into your prices. Nicole has only been a licensed nail pro for 3-4 years and runs a successful chair because she runs it as a business. Marketing is fun, but business is more necessary.
NAILS: What's your advice to others who will soon re-open?
KJ: Take time in between clients. Have a plan. It feels like opening for the first time again, so give yourself time to take care of yourself. It's OK to say "no." Talk to other techs; reach out to each other. Invest in a social media person. Invest in an Aerovex healthy capture system.
Kim typed up the protocols for her salon, based on the Georgia protocols, and posted them to the salon's Facebook page. The post reads:
As we understand that the threat of COVID-19 is not over, we will be implementing new procedures to be even more cautious than before. We will continue to utilize the highest standards of sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization and we will be going above and beyond to do our best in protecting our clients and our families.
> We will only be allowing 2 techs at a time to perform services. This will ensure that our stations will maintain a safe distance of 6 feet. > Additionally, we will only be servicing one pedicure at a time to maintain a safe distance.
> Upon your arrival, please stay in your vehicle and text to let us know you have arrived. We will send a return message to let you know when you may safely enter.
> If you have any symptoms of any flu, or COVID (ie fever, sneezing, coughing, etc) OR have been exposed to COVID-19, we kindly ask you to reschedule.
> Only clients receiving services will be permitted into salon ( if you need to reschedule due to childcare, please allow ample time)
> We will provide a mask if you do not have one
> NO CELL PHONE use will be permitted while receiving services
> No snacks or beverages will be offered at this time
> All clients will wash hands before and during service
> A 5$ environmental fee will be added to help offset cost of extra measures
Unfortunately, as a temporary measure, we will only be servicing those clients who have been seen within the past four months. This is to further our efforts to provide the safest environment possible for our clients, our techs, and families. We appreciate your patience during this time. If you would like to be placed on our wait list, please contact us and we will be happy to reach out to you as soon as we are able to fully open up our books again. Thank you so much for your understanding.
Please be patient with us as we work to get those who have had their services interrupted in first. If you do not feel comfortable leaving your home just yet, we completely understand. Please let us know how we might be able to assist you.
We so look forward to seeing everyone. If you have scheduled appointments in the month of May, we will be keeping them on the book and moving forward with business as usual. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We will get through this together.
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