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by Catherine Wilson, Staff Writer

Waldorf, MD- Nearly two months ago Charles County’s barbers and cosmetologists were permitted to return to an industry that had drastically changed during the almost three-month closure.

“Being shut down during a pandemic really taught me to appreciate my gift of doing hair,” Rochelle Johnson, the owner of Sirod’s Hair Gallery in Waldorf, MD said.

Upon reopening the Maryland Department of Labor along with the Board of Barbers and Board of Cosmetologists issued strict health and safety guidelines that must be followed.

The lengthy list of requirements includes the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, tools and furniture; a strict handwashing regiment, the placement of easily accessible hand sanitizer, and the use of face and hand coverings.

“The biggest challenge is them washing their hands or using the hand sanitizer,” Johnson said.  [Customers] would say something like ‘oh, I’ve washed my hands, I’m just coming from home.’ Or, ‘I haven’t been anywhere,’” the salon owner said, emphasizing the importance of complying with state guidelines.

In addition, they were instructed to limit the occupancy by implementing appointment-based services and keep waiting customers to a minimum, if at all.

Johnson opted to close her lobby entirely to eliminate customer contact with surfaces that have the potential to spread germs — something her clientele has had a hard time adjusting to.  

“I ask that they sit out in their cars until their time, so I strictly go by appointment,” Johnson said.

While requiring face coverings, Johnson recognizes the challenges that come with fabric face masks in a salon setting and offers disposable masks for clients.

“If we’re doing a chemical, I wouldn’t want it to get saddled behind their ear,” Johnson said.

The safety at hair salons and barbershops comes at the price of time limitations. While seeing fewer customers throughout the day to keep up with social distancing, salons and barbershops have to thoroughly sanitize between clients, which takes a lot of time out of the day.

“Something that normally takes 30 minutes will have to take an hour and 30 minutes because after the client has their service done, I’m disinfecting,” Johnson said.

Business has slowed for the owner of World Class Barbers in Waldorf, MD, Christopher White, whose customers came mostly from walk-ins rather than appointment. Without an established clientele and fewer hours to provide services, the business has changed significantly.

“Before you could go at a rapid pace but now having to clean up after each client it takes an extra five to ten minutes,” White said.

Due to the slowing of customers, White lost several of his barbers. While implementing social distancing and sanitation practices, some of his loyal customers didn’t feel comfortable enough to resume hair services in light of the pandemic.

“The main thing that people want to see is can they trust your establishment enough to feel comfortable and safe,” White said understandingly.

White admits that there has been many changes in the hair cutting business but one of the most prominent has been the change in atmosphere.

“Barbershops used to be a fun place to be. Now, everything is tense and nobody is really talking and everyone is scared… Everything is on pins and needles based around this Covid-19,” White said.