Local businesses try to pivot after governor’s reclosure order
“I just don’t know. We have no plan.”
Sammi Thomas, owner of 1329 Salon & Spa on 1329 State St., told the News-Press, but it’s a sentiment that resonates with hundreds of local business owners in Santa Barbara County.
Since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order forced the reclosure of indoor operations at nail salons, barbershops, places of worship, fitness centers, and others, more and more businesses are finding it tough to keep the lights on at all — even if restrictions are lifted again.
“We really thought it was just going to be the first and last time (we were forced to close)… but I think that this a second time really made me think, ‘What should I do? What is going to be next?’” Ms. Thomas said.
“It just pushed us to the edge. Like, how are we going to do this?”
Ms. Thomas was as excited as she could be when the county first lifted restrictions so she could open up her salon.
She opened up in mid-June, about two weeks after the restrictions were lifted on May 27.
Despite the excitement, Ms. Thomas knew she had to temper her expectations, as she could only accommodate about 20 to 40% of her normal client base at one time.
In addition, with more time being spent on extensive cleaning and making sure everything was safe, that left less time in the day to continually book.
Still, not even all that could bring down her positive attitude.
“We were just so excited and we called all of our clients who already had canceled to try to re-book them,” Ms. Thomas said.
“My husband and I decided we just wanted to provide the best protection for all of us. We installed ventilation for fresh air every hour, hand sanitizers and we spaced everything apart, 14 feet even, and we tried to just make it better.”
Unfortunately, not even a month later and she and her salon are back on lockdown. As of right now, current restrictions from the State Board of Cosmetology do not allow hair salons to continue operations outdoors.
Ms. Thomas has said that her other option would be to make house calls, but feels it is not safe to continue doing so.
“We have to take risks to drive to the clients, going to client A and client B. I am not sure though because If I keep doing this way, I am not confident. I feel like that’s not even safer, it’s a bigger risk for my family and for the clients,” Ms. Thomas said.
Ms. Thomas received some help from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, but even that money has not been enough.
She added most of her stylists said they might not be able to return if and when they are allowed just because of their struggles.
“Most of my salon stylists, they have kids and they are struggling to feed the kids, and then this happened. Every other industry right now is in a struggle, so I cannot give you a right answer about what I have planned because I just don’t know what to do,” Ms. Thomas said.
Even with all the pressure on her though, Ms. Thomas said she does have just one goal during this pandemic.
“Our ambitious plan for this year is to stay healthy and just remain grateful for all of us,” Ms. Thomas said.
Jorge Salgado, owner of The Barber Shop in the 1200 block of State Street, was one of the first who tried moving his operations outdoors, but was shut down earlier this week.
In the coming days as he awaits a decision or help from the state Board of Cosmetology, he said part of his focus is on helping his stylists and hopefully getting help in return from his landlords.
“I won’t be charging them rent. Hopefully my landlords can help me out still. There’s a lot on my plate,” Mr. Salgado told the News-Press via text message.
Some businesses have been allowed to move outdoors, however, and it’s made a big difference.
Jazzercise Santa Barbara recently made the move right outside the Youth Page Center and has been slowly staying afloat.
“I have been so grateful because we have such a supportive loyal group of jazzercisers and they’ve stayed with us,” Suzy Cawthon, owner of Jazzercise Santa Barbara, told the News-Press.
“Some people just can’t anymore in this environment but there’s been so much support so it’s been really great.”
Ms. Cawthon said that her business is down 20 to 25%, but she is happy that she could at least stay doing classes in person.
“It’s killing everybody right now, all the small businesses… but we’ve just done what we needed to do, to be faithful and loyal to our clients and they’ve been so appreciative. And, our clients, the ones that want to come, really want to come and it’s a different experience when you’re dancing with others than when you’re doing it in your kitchen,” Ms. Cawthon said.
Ms. Cawthon said that the experience has been incredibly stressful and unprecedented but she’s just thankful for the help she’s received, not just from her clients but from the Youth Page Center as well.
Also, while places of worship are not businesses, they too have taken a hit.
But, the Rev. Dr. David Moore, the lead pastor at the New Covenant Worship Center, said he never felt like his place of worship closed down.
“I have never considered us closed, so I never embraced the term reopened because we always remain open,” Rev. Dr. Moore said.
For the Rev. Dr. Moore and the church’s followers, they understand that the situation the world is currently facing is bigger than anything else.
“I think that our folks, for the most part, just understand the risk. We’ve never been in this place before and we’re not going to pretend our way out of it,” he said.
“Another factor is, we are part of Santa Barbara and we owe it to be responsible and to, if necessary, exercise some kind of moral leadership.”
All of the Masses have been held online and through Zoom and also live streamed on the group’s Facebook page. There are Q&A’s after every Mass on Zoom.
Switching to online has also helped the church have guest pastors and speakers that the Rev. Dr. Moore said he “never even would have dreamed of.”
Donations are a big part of how churches remain open, however, and the Rev. Dr. Moore said that while they are not meeting in person and some are skeptical to donate online, they have been able to stay afloat because they have reached a bigger audience.
“Since we went virtual, people have joined us from other parts of the country so they feel a part of it, and some make regular contributions, but that’s been a big part,” he said.
“Last week we had people from Hawaii, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pasadena, Santa Maria and that’s what I can remember off the top of my head.”
As a token of appreciation, he also hopes to continue accommodating these people around the country when they move back to in-person Mass.
“I suspect that we will always have a virtual aspect to what we do, because we’re not going to just abandon these people because some of them are helping us survive financially,” Rev. Dr. Moore said.
“This is energizing us. We’re really excited about it so we’ve got to figure out how to accommodate a new way of being.”