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The pandemic gets ugly: The local beauty scene is forced to close shop

Star Tribune

Star Tribune

As part of an order from Governor Tim Walz, local salons and spas must close their doors until at least March 27. This has forced owners and stylists to make difficult decisions.

“I made the heartbreaking decision to close up my shop the day before the mandated shutdown,” says Niki Robison, who owns Niki Robison Brow & Skin Studio in Eden Prairie. “I am so terrified of the economic implications, but I know this action will save lives.”

“Just my small business alone put 30 people in Minnesota and 13 in Chicago out of a job for the time being,” says Melanie Richards, who owns goGLOW sunless tanning salons across the metro. “I can’t do anything to get the jobs back until we’re out of this. In the meantime, every business is completely dependent on online sales, but nobody will be saved by it by any means. Everyone is crippled by fear right now because of the unknown.”

Richards is hopeful people will do the right thing and stay home. “I am grateful above all else for my health and my main priority is simply pleading for people to take this seriously so we can get our jobs and lives back.”

Hairstylist Jenessa LaSota, who owns her own space, Vena Cava in the Sola Salons building, is also overwhelmed.

“Being in a community of artists, everyone really relies on each other for their own livelihood. I keep seeing posts about how we’re all just passing around the same $20 to keep each other afloat,” she says. “It’s making a huge case for socialism, which I’m a huge advocate for.”

L-R: Jenessa LaSota, Jessica Reipke

L-R: Jenessa LaSota, Jessica Reipke

She made the decision to close her space before the mandate. “I love my clients a lot and I worry about everyone’s safety,” she says. “After speaking with friends who are immune-compromised, I made the hard decision to close up shop out of a sense of responsibility to ‘flatten the curve.’”

LaSota says her clients have been extremely supportive of her decision. “I have been giving out my Venmo handle if people would like to pay for services in advance for a later time, and gift card purchases are available online. I think that’s the route most salons are taking. If people have steady income jobs and are able to work from home, I think it’s huge to throw a few dollars to someone who solely relies on human interaction for income.”

Haus Salon, which is closed (at least) until March 30, has come up with a creative way to support its stylists until its doors open again. The salon—which has locations in south Minneapolis, Northeast, and the North Loop—is allowing clients to schedule and prepay for services with their stylists and estheticians, providing staff with immediate support while they’re unable to work. Stylists receive their full commission, and clients can use the gift card toward a future service. Haus is also offering 20% off their online retail.

The salon employees are also supporting each other virtually. “We’re helping each other navigate unemployment insurance applications, sharing logins to instructional videos, conducting group chats, sharing puzzles, checking in with each other, and sending tips on how to pass the time with kids,” says Haus co-founder Jessica Reipke.

“I think we’ve all been doing a pretty good job when it comes down to local support and helping each other. I feel lucky to grow up and live in a place like Minneapolis,” says LaSota. “But I really believe that we have put more pressure on people in positions of power to do a better job of helping under-privileged folks. We need policy change. We need to have resources readily available for when things like this do happen. We need health care for everyone.”