Some Atlanta businesses race to reopen Friday despite coronavirus

Barber Carlton O’Shea listens Wednesday in Marietta as Blessed Up Barber Shop Owner Taurean Overall, not pictured, goes over safety measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus when they open back up on Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp is allowing certain businesses to reopen. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Barber Carlton O’Shea listens Wednesday in Marietta as Blessed Up Barber Shop Owner Taurean Overall, not pictured, goes over safety measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus when they open back up on Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp is allowing certain businesses to reopen. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Barbershops, salons, spas navigate money, safety after green light

At an emergency staff meeting Wednesday night, Taurean Overall gathered five of his barbers to talk about the pros and cons of reopening his Blessed Up Barber Shop chain – shut down since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They each sat in barber chairs wearing masks and gloves. Like a war council, they meticulously outlined how they were going to open and how they were going to keep themselves and their customers safe.

Satisfied, they agreed they were ready to open Friday.

Until someone asked, in an industry that often relies on hand-to-hand cash transactions, “How do we exchange money?”

“It stopped us,” said Overall, who goes by “Bae Bae.” “How do we handle that?”

Those are the kind of questions local small businesses are grappling with as some race to reopen Friday after Gov. Brian Kemp gave them a controversial green light.

Most area businesses have been allowed to stay open during the pandemic, but some were ordered closed in early April. On Monday, Kemp announced shuttered businesses including barbershops, beauty and nail salons, spas, gyms and bowling alleys could reopen Friday. Movie theaters and restaurant dining rooms can reopen Monday.

Kemp’s order is being criticized as dangerous by many mayors and public health experts. Even President Donald Trump, who has been pushing to reopen the economy, said Wednesday it was a bad idea as the death toll from COVID-19 mounts.

Many metro Atlanta residents say they plan to stay home. And many businesses aren’t rushing to reopen. But others are.

Robert Bexley, an Atlanta attorney who represents several small businesses, said that some shop owners trying to open are doing it quietly, to avoid the risks of a social media backlash.

“While they do need business, they are concerned that people are going to latch on to a perception that they are acting irresponsibly when they are just trying to feed their families,” Bexley said.

Overall, who owns three barbershops,said it is impossible to know how it will all play out.

“I feel this is a test run,” Overall said. “If the (coronavirus) numbers go up because of this, I don’t know when we are gonna reopen again.”

Skin & Silhouette: Marietta

Mayra Hicks was preparing to reopen her Skin & Silhouette before she even closed. She works solo in her Marietta shop providing acne treatments, body contouring, peels and anti-aging treatments — intimate work that forces her to be face-to-face with clients.

Before she closed in mid-March, Hicks stocked up on sterile, disposable wraps, robes, headbands and facial and body towels and linens to use instead of the “plush and luxurious reusable” ones that are a staple in her spa.

Starting Friday, Hicks will close her lobby and waiting rooms and is only accepting appointments. Everyone entering her shop will be provided a space to wash and sanitize their hands and anyone with a cough, fever, or other symptoms of illness will have to reschedule.

Skin and Silhouette Spa in Marietta reopens on Friday. Mayra Hicks is taking appointments, modifying procedures, bringing in disposable supplies and texting directions to clients Thursday, April 23, 2020. She has disposable sheets and hair caps rather than using her linens and cloth headbands. (Jenni Girtman for Atlanta Journal-Constition)
Skin and Silhouette Spa in Marietta reopens on Friday. Mayra Hicks is taking appointments, modifying procedures, bringing in disposable supplies and texting directions to clients Thursday, April 23, 2020. She has disposable sheets and hair caps rather than using her linens and cloth headbands. (Jenni Girtman for Atlanta Journal-Constition)

“When they call and make the appointment, that is the first thing I am going to ask them,” Hicks said.

The snack area is even off-limits.

Hicks usually would wear a mask and glove when working on a client. Now, she will also wear a head cap and a face shield.

“I am ready and prepared,” Hicks said. “I know it is going to be a little difficult for everybody, but we all have to try.”

Salon Gloss: Woodstock

Even without having to pay salaries, Tim Timmons was spending $20,000 a month for rent, utilities and subscriptions for his Salon Gloss in Woodstock.

Friday can’t come soon enough.

“I got to do something to help my brand,” Timmons said. “We weighed all of the options about how to do this right and how to do our part to help contain the virus without putting the community at risk. In the end, we decided that we can open and we can do it safely and responsibly.”

When the salon opens, Timmons will put his customers through a regimen that he says is tougher than getting into a doctor’s office, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers.

Each customer will have their temperatures taken with a digital infrared thermometer when they walk into the salon, then answer three questions: Have you been sick? Have you been in the presence of someone with COVID-19? Have you traveled lately?

If they pass that phase, which they have to certify with a signature, they will be given a set of gloves and a mask.

Salon Gloss owner Tim Timmons goes over the new procedures that his staff and guests will adhere to as he reopens the salon during the COVID-19 pandemic in Woodstock, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Salon Gloss owner Tim Timmons goes over the new procedures that his staff and guests will adhere to as he reopens the salon during the COVID-19 pandemic in Woodstock, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Staff will also be wearing gloves, masks and gowns. On Saturday, they will start wearing face shields as well.

All of the stations are already at least seven feet apart, and depending on how many people are in the shop, it can be spread out to 16 feet, Timmons said.

Clients getting shampooed, where hairdressers have to get really close to them, will have a towel placed over their faces. All of the staff will also be required to bring a second set of clothes to change into when they leave work.

Support staff will clean the shop every hour and everybody on staff will have their temperature taken regularly.

“There have been lots of questions (from the staff) and everybody has the ability to stay home if they don’t feel comfortable,” Timmons said.

Timmons said that the salon, which is in its ninth year, is already booked solid with appointments, despite steady social media buzz against salons reopening.

“There is a lot of confusion and strong opinions out there,” Timmons said. “I knew that we would get a lot of heat and wondered would it be worth it. But the staff was running out of money.”

Blessed Up Barbershop: Marietta and Acworth

By Friday, at least two of Overall’s three barbershops, in Marietta and Acworth, will reopen. The Canton spot will remain closed for now.

“It is a big rock in a big, hard place,” Overall said. “If we were able to receive some kind of stimulus, we wouldn’t be so anxious to go back to work. These landlords are still demanding the rent. We are stuck in a predicament of waiting it out and losing money or going forward and keeping our faith.”

Overall said that he has not made money in two months.

Blessed Up Barbershop Owner Taurean Overall, right, goes over safety measures to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus when they open back up on Friday on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Marietta, Ga.   Blessed Up will also open up its Acworth and Canton locations after Gov. Kemp is allowing certain businesses reopen for business.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Blessed Up Barbershop Owner Taurean Overall, right, goes over safety measures to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus when they open back up on Friday on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. Blessed Up will also open up its Acworth and Canton locations after Gov. Kemp is allowing certain businesses reopen for business. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

But in the days leading up to Friday, Overall and his barbers have been hustling to get supplies like more sanitizer and disinfectant sprays.

A regular client donated some handheld thermometers. And as of Thursday morning, they were still hunting disposable capes for customers and for a surplus of masks. For them and the customers.

Hours on Friday and Saturday, at least, will be from noon until 5 p.m. Each barber chair is about six feet apart.

There will be no walk-ins and the front doors will remain locked.

And about those cash payments?

All customers have to pay with Cashapp or PayPal.