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STEPHEN HEMELT — Hairy situations develop with closed barbershops, salons

My son is going to be the guinea pig.

It was either him or me, and old age won out.

Both of us need haircuts, and the various stay-at-home orders and closings of area salons and barbershops have cramped our style, literally.

Non-essential businesses are closed, but what exactly is an essential business?

Car dealerships? Pet groomers? Barbershops? Liquor stores?

Some are open and some are not. It’s up to individual residents to decide if they agree with how our elected leaders are handling this unprecedented challenge.

One thing we know for sure is our response to the next potential worldwide virus is going to be significantly different than this one.

We might all be better prepared to cut the hair of family members.

Wahl Clipper Corporation told the Associated Press “how-to” searches for home haircuts have had a nearly 300 percent increase in the last week at WahlUSA.com.

It’s that way in our household, where my wife volunteered to act as stylist. Now it’s my 12-year-old son’s turn to sit in her barber’s chair, which in this case will be a kitchen stool moved to the garage.

Selfishly, I wish barbers and salons were deemed essential establishments. However, I recognize the inherent risk when two people get as close as a client and a stylist.

So does Rochelle Perrio Jeane, owner of Strands Hair Spa & Boutique in Port Neches.

She has been in business for almost 25 years, and the longest she’s been forced to close before the coronavirus struck was a little more than a week due to Hurricane Rita.

Now, it’s four weeks and counting since a stay-at-home order shuttered her operation. She still remembers the day.

“We got pretty nervous about it and shaken up,” she says, recalling the Friday that the business closed. “You are never expecting that to happen. We just went ahead and finished out our day. Then, I got some of my employees to come in, and we started calling Saturday’s appointments. You can’t just shut down a business just like that.”

She still receives “tons” of requests to work outside of the county’s order to close.

“I’ve actually had people get upset with me,” Rochelle said. “I’m going to be honest, I thought about doing it at first because I was really scared and trying to figure out how in the world I was going to make it. With a business you have so much overhead.”

Rochelle ultimately decided against breaking the order after opening up her Bible one morning and embracing the passage she read.

“It really spoke to me big time about following the rules,” she said. “I want it to be safe for everyone and had to make a decision to do the right thing.”

Rochelle misses the client interaction the most because she is a self-described “people person.”

To create cash flow, the business owner has stepped out of her comfort zone to make videos of herself showing off the various benefits of the hair-care products she has in stock.

As an established Aveda salon, she has the benefit of a brand with a strong reputation.

“What I’m doing is selling,” Rochelle told me. “I have a lot of inventory and I’m grateful. I’m doing curbside sales and have had a huge response.”

With gloves on, Rochelle sits in front of her store from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. handing out curbside orders Tuesdays through Fridays. A sale promoting 40 percent off her Aveda products has helped create business.

Much of the effort can be tracked on strandshairspaboutique.com or facebook.com/StrandsHairSpa.

When our community finally gets past this COVID-19 crisis, Rochelle knows her team will have a lot of challenging hair situations to rescue.

My family might end up being first in line.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at Stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.