Chris and Catherine Lee, co-owners of The Gossip Shop Salon in North Carolina, share their struggles with opening a new business during a global pandemic.
“We’re a brand-new salon, three years in the making, and we opened on May 22 for the first time. So, we had to adapt all our systems to the current guidelines to keep our staff and clients safe and happy,” said Chris Lee. They devoted a section of their website to communicate these guidelines to their guests, and have been working nonstop. “We opened at 5pm the first day our state allowed us to, and worked until 2am. Then we started up again at 8:30am the next day and went to midnight. We’re trying our hardest to support our community.”
There are challenges with opening a salon during a global pandemic, like distributors on furlough, which makes it difficult to get supplies (like Barbicide), not to mention the amount of haircolor needed for the influx of correction services. When the pandemic hit, the Lees stocked up on what they thought they would need. Plus, with many stylists earning more money on unemployment than working in a salon, they had to get crafty.
To attract talent, the Lees offer perks, like heated cushioned floors that are easier on feet and the back, and hanging blow-dryers from Freestyle Systems to help reduce rotator cuff and repetitive stress injuries. The salon is also gratuity-free, meaning stylists are paid bigger salaries, plus bonuses like a commission on product sales “We tell our clients that the best tip is a referral, a good Google review and rebooking, or purchase of a product—the stylists get a commission [and] the salon benefits," said Chris.
“I’d say one of the greatest challenges of opening a salon during a pandemic is having to wear masks," he added. "It’s a detriment to a consultation because you can’t hear or see each other clearly. To address that, we’re teaching our stylists to communicate more with body language and eye expressions to ensure sound communication.”
The Lees are determined to not only make their salon a success during these trying times, but to also contribute to making the industry a better place. They plan on partnering with Paul Mitchell Schools to rotate in four new stylists every four months to help them gain experience in hairdressing, business building/management, social media and conflict-resolution skills. They are training beauty school graduates to be proficient and recognized as candidates for higher positions.
Maybe opening a salon during a global pandemic is the perfect time to open a salon. Core values and missions become crystal clear, gratitude rises to the top, and giving back to community and industry is no longer an afterthought—it’s a priority.