'We're one of the most sanitary industries out there'
Cosmetologists are desperate to open their businesses.
Hair salons have been allowed to open and tanning salons will be allowed to open June 1, both with major restrictions. However, aestheticians, nail technicians, masseuses, makeup artists and others are still not allowed to conduct business under the governor’s state of emergency order.
Liz Martin has owned Noche Azul Spa in Wilmington for five years. Her business offers waxing, facials, lashes and permanent makeup. Noche Azul has been closed since the emergency order restrictions began in March.
Martin is circulating a petition to open all cosmetology businesses in Delaware that already has over 1,700 signatures.
“We’re one of the most sanitary industries out there. Public health is what we’re trained to take care of. The governor, or whoever is making the calls, has no idea how clean of an industry we are,” Martin said.
Her emails to officials have gone unanswered.
Martin has been selling products online to get by, and applying for and recently receiving aid.
“My bank account was $13.96 before I got any help,” she said.
Valerie Rutt owns The V Spa in Smyrna, which offers facials, waxing, permanent makeup and more. Like Noche Azul, The V Spa has been closed since mid-March.
“It’s been really difficult,” Rutt said. “My husband is an essential employee but he’s military and constantly gone and we have three kids to feed.”
She’s been selling gift cards to make ends meet, having to continuously assure clients that her business will remain open for future gift card use.
“I cared about my clients’ safety long before a brand new virus surfaced,” Rutt said. “To get a professional license you have to take classes every year, and every time we learn a new service. We’re trained on the measures we should be taking to prevent any viral or bacterial transfer. We have taken every precaution necessary, and not just now – all the time.”
Rutt said she has contacted the governor, explaining the sanitary practices of her industry and imploring him to allow business to open, but there was no response.
“I have always tried to be neutral [with politics]. With a small business you have to. But I feel like we’re backed into a corner with this. I really feel like I have to choose,” Rutt said. “People are going to need our vote, and our votes may change because nobody responded to our emails.”
In Sussex County, Jason and Erin Exline own Brow & Beauty Bar in Rehoboth Beach.
Brow & Beauty Bar is known for their permanent makeup application. They also offer lash and skincare services.
“The biggest frustration we’re facing in our industry is the fact that not only are we already prepared for what’s going on, but based on the standards coming from the governor’s office, we’re already exceeding the sanitation requirements,” Jason Exline said.
After attempting to contact the governor, Exline started working with Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes), who told him to come up with a reopening plan specific to his business. He submitted the plan to Lopez on Monday, May 18, and Lopez is expected to submit it to the governor after review. According to Exline, Lopez said that one of the governor’s main concerns is queuing, or customers waiting to be served.
They were approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan but would much rather be working.
“The assistance is nice, but I don’t want to sit around a collect a check. At the end of the day, if you don’t feel accomplished … you can only do that for so long,” he said.
Incoming Delaware Board of Cosmetology and Barbering president John Cook declined to comment, but past president Derrick Reed was willing.
Board member Reed owns His Image barber lounge in Wilmington and employs ten people.
“We are open under the restriction, for essential workers only,” he said. “It’s more of a 'thank you' to the workers. It doesn’t pay our bills.”
Reed said he sent a copy of Georgia’s reopening restrictions for salons to the Delaware Attorney General’s office for review and that the board is currently working on creating their own guidelines.
“The board is doing everything they can to make things happen and make things safer for people,” Reed said. “But as of right now, it’s kind of out of our control. The governor is calling the shots.”