A Salon Reopens: One Owner’s Saga

Mancini Salon reopens today. Gone are the luxurious capes, delicious coffee bar, and comfortable waiting area.

Instead, clients will have their temperature taken. They’ll be given disposable gowns. They’ll find stylists wearing full PPE.

It’s not the warm, welcoming environment owner Carla Morales has cultivated since opening in 2007. But — after nearly 3 months of locked doors and conflicting guidance — she’s thrilled to be back.

Carla Morales

In early March, Morales heard women at her popular 180 Post Road East salon talking about the coronavirus. She stockpiled wipes and hand sanitizer, posted CDC information, and asked her cleaning crew to come in every night.

Then she heard about the now-infamous party that led to a COVID outbreak in town. Within days, Governor Lamont shut all non-essential businesses.

Since then, she and her staff of 2 dozen stylists have not cut or colored one head of hair. They miss their clients — and their clients really miss them.

The shutdown was initially supposed to last 2 weeks. Then it was a month. Then until May 20.

At first Morales busied herself with improvements. She painted the walls, buffed the floors, renovated the bathroom with touch-less fixtures.

As the state slowly provided information on reopening — and, just before May 20, pushed the date back to June 1 — Morales did whatever was required.

She ordered full PPE — gloves, gowns, shoe coverings — for her entire staff, and vast amounts of the same disposable equipment for clients. She placed hand sanitizing stations at the entrance to her salon, and inside.

She removed the beverage service. She got rid of the soft, porous furniture in the reception area. She converted her cash register to credit-card only payment, and installed expensive sneeze shields.

The “new” Mancini Salon. It still looks great!

She figured out which of her 8 chairs and 24 sinks she could use. New regulations permit only 10 to 12 people allowed inside at a time.

“It looks like a different place. I hate to say it. But it looks like a hospital.”

The limit on customers means Morales has must extend her hours. They’re now 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. She and her employees will work longer, to make the same amount (or less) money.

Of course, while operating at 50% capacity, she is responsible for 100% of her rent. “He’s in the same boat,” she says.

It’s not a great picture. But Morales knows she is not alone.

“What about the salons that have only 10 chairs?” she wonders. “That’s really, really tough.”

The new interior — including the hand sanitizer at left.

Figuring out what needed to be done took a long time. And it was not easy. At first, state regulators said salons cannot offer blow drying. Then they seemed to say that was okay.

Late last week, Morales was still trying to figure out whether blow drying is allowed. “It makes women feel so good. And it’s a big money-maker,” she says. “But we would never do something that isn’t allowed.”

“I’ve crossed all the t’s, and dotted all the i’s,” Morales says. She wants to do this right. Before reopening, she brought her staff in for a run-through with the new equipment and protocols.

Her clients have waited patiently — and with longer, now naturally colored hair — for Mancini Salon to reopen. She’s booked solid for the first month.

Still, Morales admits, “It’s scary. I’m the leader. I have to make everyone who comes here — my clients and staff — comfortable.

“I’ve put my heart and soul into this place. I believe in the business. Hopefully we’ll get back to our lives, to people feeling good about themselves when they get their hair done. Hopefully people will see we’re doing everything we can to help.”

She pauses.

“Safety is the new luxury now.”

(Hat tip: Patti Brill)

3 responses to “A Salon Reopens: One Owner’s Saga

  1. Virginia Baxter

    Carla is an excellent stylist and business woman. She has not cut corners in the past to make her business successful, and I know she will not cut corners in the future to keep her clients and colleagues safe.

  2. Carolanne Curry

    This business owner is representative of all those incredible small business owners, who face the challenge of staying in business in the first place after months of closure. But whose moral compass directs their steps now towards business recovery despite myriad rules and regulations.
    Thank you.

  3. I was at Steven Mancini Salon yesterday for a hair color appointment and could not have felt more safe and comfortable. Carla has done a spectacular job with safety protocols, and going above and beyond! The staff and clients are decked out in full PPE gear from head to toe, the place is spotless and constantly sanitized, there’s more than enough distance between people and plenty of fresh air circulation. I felt like I was at a luxury hospital! Steven Mancini Salon totally rocks! Kudos to Carla!