Kamsack hair salon meets challenges of doing business during a pandemic

Among the challenges doing business during a virus pandemic in small town Saskatchewan include higher costs, lots of sanitizing, cumbersome masks, more time and less revenue.

That’s the experience of one Kamsack business, Pheobe’s Beauty Parlour, which partially opened on May 19 after having been closed for nearly two months.

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“At first we opened for only hair,” Pheobe Koroluk, the owner, said last week as she and two of her employees discussed the situation, while waiting for the minutes to pass for their one customer’s hair treatment to conclude.

“On June 8, we opened our other services including tanning, aesthetics and product sales,” she said, explaining that government subsidies had assisted with compensation for herself and staff.

“I was fortunate to be able to obtain a deferment on the building’s mortgage,” she said, adding that of course neither she nor members of her staff were able to work during that two-month period she was closed for fear of not only the virus spreading, but of fines if found out.

As it now is, the front door is locked and customers, who have pre-arranged for their appointments, wait at the door for their stylist to let them enter. Everyone wears face masks, workers and customers. If a customer does not have a mask, he or she is sold one at cost.

“We won’t serve someone without a mask,” Koroluk said.

Staff at Pheobe’s use hand-made masks after having discovered that the bought masks are expensive and can only be used one time. The hand-made masks can be washed and re-used over and over.

“Currently, we’re able to accommodate only about half the customers we would normally have served,” said Nicole Rozema, who with Lexi Koroluk are the two hair stylists working at the shop. The business also employs a nail technician. Catherine Maksymetz is an independent stylist who operates at Pheobe’s.

“We can handle so few customers because each stylist can tend to only one customer at a time, instead of cutting one person while another is waiting for treatments to conclude,” Rozema explained.

“And, we’ve got to sanitize everything between each customer,” she said. “We have no waiting room, no beverages or treats are served and bathrooms are available only in emergencies and that facility must be sanitized after each use.

A job that once took two hours can now take up to three hours because of the sanitizing, she said, adding that because of the extra time and costs involved a COVID extra charge is added to each bill.

“That extra charge will be removed once the pandemic is over,” Koroluk said.

Rozema explained that they are in contact with their suppliers who keep them informed of all the new regulations and changes as time evolves.

Aside from taking longer to do a job, their work is made more difficult wearing masks.

“It’s hard to breathe,” Rozema said. “And your glasses tend to fog up.”

“I only wear these gloves to do the cleaning,” Lexi Koroluk said, explaining that the chemicals used tend to affect the skin on her hands.

“We have a good cleaning schedule: lots of sanitizing,” Lexi said. “We need to keep contamination to a minimum.”

The stylists said that they are often required to use more product than normal, because it has been a longer time since a customer has been in the salon.

“We find we also have to spend extra time correcting at-home colour jobs and at-home haircuts,” Rozema said. “We now take appointments six days a week and we’re often still at work well into the evenings.”

If someone comes to the door, he or she is given a business card and told to make an appointment.

Customers arrange for appointments either by phone or through Facebook.