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This article was published 19/5/2020 (242 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s been just over two weeks since Winnipeg’s hair salons and barbershops began reopening, and while it’s not business as usual, it is certainly busier than usual.

"After the reopening announcement on May 4, our phones were going off the hook with calls and text messages," says Whitney Dheilly, owner and stylist at HQ Style Lounge in St. Vital. "People were really looking forward to getting their hair done again."

Salons such as Elan Hair Studio have implemented additional safety and sanitation procedures.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Salons such as Elan Hair Studio have implemented additional safety and sanitation procedures.

"We’re booked up for the rest of this month and almost all of June as well," says Sara Niemi, manager of Élan Hair Studio on Sherbrook Street.

"It’s been extremely busy," agrees Jeremy Regan, owner of Hunter & Gunn Barbershop in West Broadway. "Usually Christmas time is our busiest time. This is like Christmastime."

With new precautions in place, salons are no longer able to double-book clients and appointments are being staggered, which accounts for some of the difficulty in getting an appointment.

"One of the biggest changes is the amount of people we have in the salon at any time," Niemi says. "Prior to this we’d be very busy, every day tons of people in and out, but now, because we only want to have a certain amount of people, it’s very reduced."

For those lucky enough to get an appointment, the experience itself will be a little different than before. Salons have been working hard to implement additional safety and sanitation procedures, a step which has meant delayed reopens for some salons.

"We felt like the May 4 reopening date was just too soon," HQ’s Dheilly says. "We had a lot of supplies we needed to get, appoints to book, contact everyone we had to cancel and reorganize."

At HQ Style Lounge, which reopened on May 12, customers can now expect to be asked to complete a COVID-19 health-screening questionnaire prior to their booking, to sanitize their hands upon entry and to wear a mask.

Caitlin Bousfield cuts Ryley Daly's hair at Hunter & Gunn.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Caitlin Bousfield cuts Ryley Daly's hair at Hunter & Gunn.

"All the stations, sinks, equipment are wiped down with disinfectant after use. The doors are wiped down, the bathroom is wiped down… a lot of cleaning."

At Élan, some employees returned to the salon on May 4, but clients weren’t accepted until last week.

"We chose to postpone opening because we wanted to make sure we had everything prepared," says Niemi. "We wanted to wait to get extra supplies in."

At Vq Salon on Corydon, which reopened on May 19, there are new physical barriers at reception, sinks and stylists’ stations, as well as a sanitization station and a stockpile of masks in case a client forgets to bring their own.

"On top of staggering our schedules, we’ve implemented full sanitation protocols and put signage up everywhere," says stylist Darilyn Kurik.

New rules are posted at Elan Hair Studio on Sherbrook Street.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

New rules are posted at Elan Hair Studio on Sherbrook Street.

Hunter & Gunn was one of the few places ready to reopen on May 4. The barbershop had been closed for seven weeks, but during that time, Regan tried to stay mentally prepared for whenever he would be able to welcome customers back.

"We were on it pretty quickly and it’s been smooth," he says.

At Hunter & Gunn, the waiting area has been closed. Customers wait for a text or call after the previous customer has left and everything has been sanitized. And everyone — stylist and customers alike — has to wear a mask.

From then on, Regan says, everything flows just like a regular haircut, but the masks definitely pose some challenges.

"It’s weird not seeing people’s facial expressions," Regan says. "Although we’re a service, we’re also a very personal service. You get to know your clients. The communication has been odd, not being able to see people smile."

"We’re booked up for the rest of this month and almost all of June as well," says Sara Niemi, manager of Élan Hair Studio.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

"We’re booked up for the rest of this month and almost all of June as well," says Sara Niemi, manager of Élan Hair Studio.

Trims and root touch-ups are the most common services stylists are performing, but there have also been a few more creative projects keeping stylists on their toes.

"One of my clients said they box-dyed their hair red and will need a fix," Dheilly says.

"We’ve had a lot of girlfriends (doing) cuts on their boyfriends," Regan says, "and I’ve seen a lot of home colours that haven’t been the greatest."

Even with the extra safety measures in place and the occasional home dye-job disaster to fix, everyone is happy to be back at work. And based on the backlog of appointments, customers are thrilled to regain some semblance of normalcy again.

"Although we’re not an essential service, we seem to be very, very important to people," Regan says.

Frances.Koncan@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @franceskoncan