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Salons and spas: Are Kankakee’s shops truly ready to reopen?


According to May 28 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Coronavirus has led to 1,698,523 known cases, and 100,446 deaths in the United States since it arrived here.

Earlier this month, Gov. Pritzker announced that the state could move forward into phase three of the Restore Illinois plan, meaning that restaurants (outdoor, six-feet-apart seating), all retail stores, gyms (outdoor fitness training with 10 or less people), golf courses (four people per tee), education and childcare, offices, barbershops, hair and nail salons, and tattoo shops can reopen, with restrictions.

As the numbers in the state of Illinois continue to rise, despite rules and regulations regarding social distancing, quarantining, and face masks being put in place. It begs the question: are we ready to reopen? The Country Herald spoke to a few small business owners and employees to discuss their plans for their reopening.

Autumn Hodak, 26, of Kankakee is the business owner of home-based spa, Nirvana by Autumn.

Hodak hasn’t set a tentative date for her spa reopening. “When I do reopen, I’ll only be open for a couple days a week,” said Hodak. “I want to keep everyone safe. The catch is that I can only perform face and body waxes. I can’t perform facials because of the face masks. I’m still waiting on the delivery of certain PPE items to arrive. Hand sanitizer was pretty hard to come by.”

During the closing of the state, Hodak wasn’t seeing clients in person, but she found ways to keep her business alive during this troubling time. “I’ve been doing virtual acne consultations, putting together facial kits, and working on my marketing and reopening plan,” said Hodak.

Bri Haug, a 31-year-old tattoo artist at The 22 Tattoo Company in Kankakee helped to keep her job alive by holding raffles for the shop online, not by performing any type of tattoo services. “I’m completely against it,” said Haug. “Tattoos are an open wound, and it takes your immune system 2-4 weeks to recover.”

When The 22 Tattoo Company reopens on June 2, clients will be contacted with a COVID-19 questionnaire, and upon arrival, everyone’s temperature will be taken and everyone will be required to wear a mask. Clients will also be asked to keep their belongings to a minimum when entering the shop. Haug will be taking 1-2 clients a day, to test the waters.

For as long as she can remember, Autumn, a high-risk individual, has dealt with asthma. “Since I operate inside of my home, this makes things different,” said Hodak. I plan on being more cautious.” Changes that Autumn’s clientele can expect are taking their shoes off at the door and putting on sanitized slippers, changing her spa furniture to plastic furniture, and offering a sanitation station.

Angelica Brack, a 26-year-old hair braider of Angelic Designs in Kankakee, also operates out of her home, braiding her client’s hair. She doesn’t consider herself to be a high risk, but she does have loved ones to consider. “I do have older parents, and I don’t want to put anything on them,” said Brack.

Brack will be taking her first client during the second week of June. Before clients step into Brack’s home for their appointment, their temperature will be taken at the door, they’ll be required to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and masks will be worn for the duration of their appointment.

As far as sanitation goes, not much will change for Brack. “I’ll continue to sanitize my chair after every client and sanitize and use different combs for each client.” Brack will also be limiting herself to one client a day. “I do ask that clients are honest with me about whether they’ve been tested for COVID-19, or if they’ve been traveling,” said Brack. “This is our new normal now.”

Unlike Hodak and Brack, Haug will be performing her tattoo services at a shop and returning home after work. “I usually pick my son up from daycare after work,” said Haug. “Before that, I’ll be washing my hands up to my elbows, showering, and changing my clothes. I’d rather take more precautions than not. I’ll be doing everything possible to not expose my family.”

Autumn Hodak in her home studio in Kankakee. [Photo: Kara Evans Photography]

Is it too early to reopen?

“To be completely honest, I do think it’s too soon for things to be reopening,” said Hodak. “I’m so torn on this because I’ve been extra cautious, but on the other hand, I’ve seen the struggle for small business owners. I think it’s okay to try, but I hope that people are taking all of the necessary precautions.”

“I’m fearful of a second wave,” Hodak added. “We don’t know what that’ll look like, how long it’ll last, or if we’ll have to shut down again.” “Until there’s a readily available vaccine, we can’t control what people in the community do. “It’s important to be patient with those that are reopening,” says Haug. “These are times that we’ve never experienced. Everyone is nervous and on edge.”

Great Clips has decided to temporarily close its salons in Springfield, Mo., after receiving numerous threatening messages regarding the news that two of its hairstyles who tested positive for COVID-19, might have exposed 140 clients to the virus.

To avoid such situations, Jess Wright, a 28-year-old barber, and owner of Urban Barbershop Co. located in Kankakee remains hopeful, yet cautious during this reopening period. “We’re becoming an appointment-only shop right now,” said Wright. “We’ll be locking the door to not accept anyone who doesn’t have a current appointment, in order to limit excess traffic within the shop.”

The employees at Urban Barbershop Co. will be disinfecting more frequently throughout the day with hospital-grade disinfectants, and they’ll also be wearing masks throughout each service. “We’ve been tracking the numbers like everyone else since day one,” said Wright. “I think the numbers are showing significant progress. We’re excited to be given the opportunity to service the community even better than before.”

Urban Barbershop Co. reopens tomorrow.

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