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Salons desperate to reopen after being left out of Gov. Abbott’s first phase

PORT NECHES — “I’m going to lose everything I built. I have nobody to save me. There is nobody bailing me out at this point and I don’t need a government bail out. I need to do my job, and my girls need to be able to do their job.”

This is the plea of Polished Image owner Jaclyn Vice days after learning salons, barber shops, nail techs and tattoo parlors were not included in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Phase I reopening plan.

“I cannot make it another three weeks without income,” Vice said. “I can’t rely on the stimulus to one day come through because come next week, I don’t have the choice but to find a means to make money. I have to be able to provide for my child and pay my bills, and I know I can do my job and do it safely.”

Vice prepared the store to handle the coronavirus pandemic days before the government released shutdown orders back in March.

Occupants of the beauty parlor devised a plan to comply with official guidelines.

The proposal includes the nine stylists switching shifts every other day to comply with the 10-and-under rule, requiring customers to wait in their vehicles and schedule appointments in a case-by-case scenario.

The vetting process begins with a screening phone call prior to booking.

“We talk to our clients,” Vice said. “We know them all very well. We will talk to them on the phone, discuss where they work and ask all the proper questions such as recent travel, if they are experiencing any symptoms and what their daily level of exposure is.

Jaclyn Vice, owner of Polished Image in Port Neches, expresses her views on the service industry not being included in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Phase I plan to reopen the economy.

“This allows us to space everybody out and plan according to his or her specific situation. This keeps us from accidentally pairing a medical professional or frontline worker with someone who is elderly or immunocompromised.”

The layout of the salon also accommodates clients in a safe way. All chairs are spaced 11 feet apart with the nail technician station including a Plexiglas cover.

Upon entering the establishment, customers will have their temperature taken, hands washed and sanitized. They will then be given proper protective equipment before proceeding to their assigned chair.

“We feel the risk is minimal,” Vice said. “Your back is to me if you’re sitting in my chair. The likelihood of exposure, with a mask on and everything being sanitized, I feel is low, even if you are asymptomatic. The same goes for me and my stylists.”

Polished Image in Port Neches prepared for the coronavirus outbreak previous to the government shutdown orders by spacing chairs more than 6 feet apart.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation also requires additional strict cleaning measures for all licensed cosmetologists.

“If you can go sit in a movie theater, they are not trained to sanitize like we are,” Vice said. “We are required to take four hours of continuing education on sanitation every time we renew our license.”

In the 16 years since Polished Image opened, Vice said the residency has maintained a flawless inspection record.

“We are trained extensively,” she said. “So I don’t understand from the government officials, how they can allow these types of businesses to open, but not us? We have the utmost training, plus the extra steps of what we already do to keep our clients and our girls safe. I think it should be our choice if we get to open our business.”

Polished Image provides a disinfecting station with hand sanitizer, latex gloves, masks and spray.

The salon industry is going on six weeks of closure, and while many are still requiring stylists to pay a portion of their chair rental, Vice is not.

The single mother of one said she does not qualify for a stimulus check, unemployment or a small business loan.

This is the reality for many service industry owners currently faced with choosing between defying the law or losing their livelihoods.

“I survived six weeks without income and by the grace of God, I don’t know how I did it,” she said. “But I cannot survive from May 1 to May 18 with no income. I have to be able to pay my bills or I will lose what I built with my own two hands. So at what point is it time to stop sitting around and do what’s best for my family?”