Hair salons, barbers, gyms, tattoo shops feel left behind in NJ
Hair salons, gyms and tattoo parlors are among the many small businesses feeling left behind as New Jersey takes baby steps forward during the pandemic.
Non-essential retailers will be allowed to provide curbside service as of May 18 along with non-essential construction work, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
Restaurants and bars continue to offer drive-thru, delivery and takeout, while banks, gun stores, mobile phone shops and pet groomers are among those allowed to serve customers.
"Everything you have worked for and everything you have built you know you cannot do. And then you look at your neighbors, who are able to function as a small business still and they are able to provide something to generate some revenue — these disparities don’t necessarily make sense to me when I truly think about them," Nina Lancin, owner of The Concept Salon in Marlboro, said.
After voluntarily shutting down before the state's emergency directives took effect as the coronavirus began its spread across the state, Lancin said "never in a million years" did she think that she'd be here, "still completely closed after two months" with no idea of when she might reopen or what that might even look like.
Lancin said she is eager to have the opportunity to reopen even if it's scaled back.
"Whatever guidelines are put in place that would allow us to continue at least making 50% of what we did," Lancin said, adding even at 25% capacity "we can reasonably without a problem space out all our employees 6 feet apart."
Janice Lauria, owner of the Anytime Fitness franchise on Route 88 in Point Pleasant, said "I may be a little different than other small businesses because I’ve been 'in the watchful eye' for the last eight weeks."
Lauria kept her gym open to members even after the state's emergency directive went into effect in mid-March. She now faces penalties, including a fine and potential jail time, and has remained closed until the state gives all fitness centers the all-clear.
"We're destroying these people," Lauria said of the impact of not being able to keep up fitness routines for members who are rehabilitating from knee replacements, others recovering after suffering a heart attack or stroke, and still others prone to anxiety who use fitness as a mental health boost.
Lauria said the physical rehabilitation and sports medicine facility next door to her business has some of the same equipment as her gym and remains open as an essential business.
"Of course I’m hopeful to reopen," Lauria said, adding her business is all about her members, who she is regularly hearing from, upset that they can’t work out.
Maryann White, owner of Tattoo Factory in Wayne, said she remembers getting a call from health officials at the same time her tattoo artist son, Casey White, was greeted by police officers while finishing up on a client in mid-March. She said they were notified that they would have to close for two weeks as COVID-19 began to impact the state.
"That turned into two months," White said.
She said her workers are furloughed, her landlord has been flexible with her on rent and she signed up for a small business relief loan to make sure the bills get paid.
"We’re OK — I just care that we get back and everybody is safe," White said.
The family-owned business was opened by her late husband in 1974, and she said she plans to pass it on to her son but never dreamed that they and other small businesses would be faced with such upheaval at the hands of a virus.
Lauria said when finally given the chance to reopen — she's worried that it will not be under the same 24-hour access they had offered to clients. She said there's already new plexiglass in place around a lot of the gym equipment, wiping and cleaning is not an issue and social distancing between clients is doable, as she has a 5,000-square-foot facility and can handle reduced capacity.
One thing Lauria is doubtful about is wearing masks while working out.
“They will definitely not be able to breathe. You lose 20% of your oxygen with a mask on. You cannot expect people to run on a treadmill with a mask on," she said.
White said her son worries that expendable income being tight or nonexistent will impact business, though they do have a passionate, repeat client base who have been reaching out to book appointments.
“Tattooing is a way of life,” White said. "Where else do you find people that can’t wait to go back to work?”