Laurie Percoco tries not to cry when she talks about how the coronavirus crisis has affected her business.
“I’m sorry,” the owner of POSH Color Studio, a hair salon in Easton, said, choking up a little. “It’s just really hard.”
Percoco, like salon owners across the state, was forced to close due to social distancing measures imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
“There is no money coming in,” she said. “I keep a cushion in savings so I’m ok for now, but I won’t be if this goes on for too long. I’ve paid my rent and all my bills are paid, but for how long?”
While Percoco is looking into the loans and grants from the state to provide relief to small business owners, she remains concerned for her livelihood and that of her eight employees.
“My employees are able to get unemployment, which helps a little,” she said, “but it’s not enough. My husband and I are unsure if we qualify for the government’s stimulus checks. And grants and loans may take a long time.”
She is taking measures to reduce her family’s expenditures by cutting out non-necessities. The salon took in about $1,300 dollars in gift certificate sales in March, she said, which she expressed gratitude for.
“My salon is very busy normally, and my clients are helping how they can,” she said.
To lighten things up and keep clients engaged, POSH is running an online contest called “Show me your roots,” where clients submit photos of their colored hair with the natural color growing in. POSH picks winners from the submissions and the prize is a free root touch up when the salon re-opens.
“I have moments where I break down,” Percoco said, “but I’m finding the positives where I can.”
Suppliers feel pain, too
Heather Horvath, a sales consultant for Pennsylvania-based PA Beauty Supply, which services professional hair stylists and salons, say she’s doing only 2% of the business she normally does. It’s big hit, she says, because her income is primarily commission, and salons aren’t buying beauty supplies right now.
And because Horvath visits salons across the state in her sales role, she knows just how much the industry as a whole is suffering.
“My clients are losing it,” she said. “They are worried. We want to remind them that this will pass. Stay safe, follow the rules and this will be over faster. Don’t break the rules to do a highlight touch up. It’s not worth risking anyone’s health to do a side service for 50 bucks.”
Despite the current challenges, Horvath remains encouraged for the industry. “There will be a big spike in business when this is over,” she said. “I’m calm, I have faith. It’s all gonna workout as long as we do what we are supposed to do.”
‘This is catastrophic’
For Valeri Amato Simmons, owner of Bodacious Hair and Body in Easton, it is the most challenging time in her salon’s 13-year history.
“We are 100% shut down,” she said. “For those who live paycheck to paycheck, this is catastrophic.”
Simmons, who is very concerned for her employees, is also looking into government loans and grants to help the employees and the business out. And, like Horvath, she’s hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I do think there will be a boom in business when this is over,” she said.
In the meantime, Simmons, who has been working 50-hour weeks for as long as she can remember, is savoring the rest.
“I have worked since I was 15 years old,” she said. “I’m kind of enjoying the social distance. It’s really nice to shut off and spend time at home.”
Looking ahead, Simmons urges the public to remember their hair stylist when the COVID-19 crisis passes.
“It’s really important to be generous to your stylist when businesses reopen,” she said. “Until then, stay home and stay safe.”