Barber Suleiman Hassan loves cutting hair, but with shops and salons in the Philadelphia area closed right now, that’s not happening.
He’s in a tough situation — his wife had just relocated Queen Stylista Mane Artistry to Ardmore, and the couple recently bought a new house in Drexel Hill. So, instead of waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to end, the 40-year-old professional barber is making deliveries for Amazon. More than anything, though, he would like to get back to his passion.
A lot of barbers, cosmetologists, and nail techs are in a similarly tough position. They’re not allowed to open for business as usual, and because many are independent contractors, they might not know that they qualify for an emergency loan from the Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration or certain other assistance.
Last weekend, about 100 of them participated in a Zoom video conference call with Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine and elected officials to discuss ways to operate their businesses safely. They’ve devised Back to Work Safely standards to help guard against the spread of the coronavirus, including taking temperatures, spreading work stations at least six feet apart, and banning walk-ins, among other measures.
In the meantime, though, it’s a waiting game for barbers such as Hassan, who had just started working at Main Attraction Unisex Salon in West Philly before Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all nonessential businesses to close in March in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
That’s why I’m suggesting that those of us who can should help these valued hair care professionals. If you want to see them on the other side of this stay-at-home order, we need to help them through this time of uncertainty.
Barbershops and beauty salons are sanctuaries. They are where we go to get groomed, but also to connect with folks and catch up on the latest news. Besides liquor stores and small grocers, they are the only viable businesses in some neighborhoods.
So, send money to your barber of hairstylist via an app such as CashApp, or write a check and drop it in the mail. Make it a gift, if that’s feasible. Or, request that it be for future services.
It won’t solve your nail technician’s woes. But it may help to keep the bills paid. I did it with my own stylist. She’s been doing my hair for years, and the thought of her not working right now, through no fault of her own, troubled me.
“I’m still getting a salary and would be more than willing to join that rallying cry," said State Rep. Morgan Cephas (D., Phila.), who has been meeting regularly with members industry representatives. “These are some of our last African American small businesses that are still operating independently and are extremely successful. We want to make sure that this COVID-19 just doesn’t put them out of business, which is why it’s been important for us to try to strategize in different ways to make sure that they get resources now but then also get the resources that they need to stay afloat post COVID-19.”
Kenny Duncan, co-owner of Main Attraction, has been leading the Back to Work Safely effort. He told me that while he appreciates the concept, the situation is bigger.
“I’m torn about it, because if people are paying for services now that they are going to end up receiving later," he said, “you wind up with the same financial troubles.”