Sammy’s barbershop on Elizabeth City’s Colonial Avenue is usually closed on Wednesdays.
It won’t be closed today, however. At least not until 4:30 p.m.
That’s 30 minutes before the time Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered all barbershops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and movie theaters across the state to close as part of North Carolina’s continuing efforts to impose social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.
Owner Sammy Boyd said he decided to open up Sammy’s today to help his longtime customers get what could be their last professional haircut for some time.
“It’s been busy since the governor made that proclamation that we have to close by 5 p.m. Wednesday,” he said Tuesday.
Boyd, who’s been cutting hair for 54 years, the last 44 in Elizabeth City, said he’s never seen anything like what’s gone on across the country over the past few weeks.
A large chunk of the national economy has rapidly shut down in response to health officials’ dire warnings that not reducing large gatherings of people will spread COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease responsible, as of Tuesday evening, for infecting more than 417,582 people worldwide and causing 18,612 deaths. As of Tuesday evening, the disease had infected 53,660 Americans and killed 703 of them.
Boyd said while he understands the reason for the closing order, it doesn’t make it any easier for small businesspeople.
“It’s really going to be hard on small business men and women because many of them have no other income,” he said.
Boyd said his plan is to keep on cutting hair until it’s time to close.
“We have to close Wednesday but we’re going to send them out with good hair cuts,” he said.
Anthony Turner of Champion Kutz said he has the same plan.
“We’re going to serve customers right up to 5 p.m. Wednesday,” he said on Tuesday.
Interviewed late last week, Turner said he had already seen a reduction in the barbershop’s clientele. He also said the shop was trying to practice good social distancing.
For example, Champion Kutz employees carefully monitored the number of customers inside waiting for haircuts. If too many were waiting, some were asked to wait in their cars until barbers were ready for them. Also, one barber who wasn’t busy cutting hair walked around cleaning and sanitizing areas of the shop.
“Now, when we seat customers in our chairs, we spin them around to make sure they see how we clean clippers and other items used to service customers,” Turner said.
Several hair salon owners in Elizabeth City also said they planned to close their shops today in response to Cooper’s order.
“We are closing Wednesday effective at 9 a.m.,” said Cierra Sawyer of I’vy’s Touch of Class. “It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody. We’ve gotta wait it out.”
Amy Powell at Amy & Company said she planned to keep her salon’s regular hours Tuesday and Wednesday. But after 5 p.m. today the shop will be closed “until they say we can reopen,” she said.
Prior to Cooper’s order, Sawyer and other hair salon owners said they were taking a number of precautions to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus. For example, regularly scheduled customers who stylists knew and were familiar with were getting priority. Stylists also were asking customers to be honest about their health and any recent travel.
Any customer showing cold or flu-like symptoms was encouraged to delay coming to the salon for two weeks. Sawyer said while it’s not uncommon to have customers in the early spring who are sneezing or have a runny nose, it was important to delay their appointments.
“We are sanitizing before and after each client, taking extra precautions for everyone here,” she said when interviewed last week. “We’re frequently asking customers to wash their hands. Only customers who have an appointment can come inside the salon so we limit the number of people here.”
In order to maintain social distancing, Sawyer was also monitoring the blocks of time set aside for appointments. She noted that stylists can be in the company of a customer up to two hours.
Sawyer said she ended her salon’s pedicure and nail services the week before last. Some of her older customers were also canceling their appointments to stay close to home.
Also interviewed last week, Powell of Amy & Company said she had ended waxing customers’ eyebrows but was still performing other services.
“These are services they still want and it’s my income,” she said. “It’s just important for salons to continue their cleaning efforts and communicate with their clients.”
Sharonda Griffin, owner of Salon Sanjay & Co., said she was still providing manicures and pedicures, acrylic and gels nail services. Customers who were scheduled last weekend kept their appointments and remained optimistic about keeping future ones, she said.
Griffin said her shop was also practicing good social distancing measures.
“We offer fewer time blocks to prevent overbooking or to create situations where too many customers are here at a time,” she said. “We like to have time between serving customers to clean the salon area.”
Carol Rogers at SmartStyle Hair Salon, which is located inside Walmart, said customers were still requesting hair styling services but her staff had suspended eyebrow waxing and beard trimming. SmartStyle’s staff were also following proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures, she said.
Vinh Vui of D&T Nails said the shop’s owner decided to close the business after last Saturday. Customer traffic had been slower than usual for the past week, Vui said.
Also affected by the governor’s closing order is Julius Star, a Weeksville Road business that provides tattoos and body piercings.
Owner Horwitz Jeffrey said his shop has only been in business the past nine months. He said the shop’s hours — 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. — appeal to the schedules of his clients, many of whom select tattoos reflecting some part of their family history or their spiritual or religious beliefs.
After Cooper issued his executive order, Jeffrey said he and his staff of three tattooists had to shuffle their schedules to meet customers’ needs.
“We offer consultations first then we make appointments. We’ve had to condense appointments that were scheduled well into April into the next two days. With extended hours we’ve been able to help most of our customers,” he said.
Jeffrey said he’s not angry about the order to close.
“The local community has been fantastic,” he said. “We’ll offer consultations while we’re closed. We are ready to get back to business as soon as we can.”