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Reopening: Capitol Hill salons old and new return, adjusting to ‘new norm’ of masked haircutting

New colors at 19th Ave Salon by Brandon Madsen (Image: 19th Ave Salon)

Capitol Hill beauty businesses are adjusting to cutting and styling hair under state-mandated changes, including wearing PPE, issuing temperature checks and maintaining six feet of distance when possible.

For 19th Avenue Salon owner Jamie De Maria, implementing these safety requirements has been an important part of opening the new business. The salon had only been open for a week when COVID-19 restrictions shut the business down.

To his surprise, De Maria said the shop has not struggled with customers since reopening.

“We’ve been so beyond busy and turning clients away and working 12 hour days — it’s been insane,” De Maria said. “I would say 80-90% of our new customers are neighbors and residents of the community that have been walking by the salon seeing the construction happening and waiting for it to open and reading our reviews online.”

Salons got the go-ahead to reopen at 25% capacity under Phase 1.5 restrictions in early June and now have the option to expand to 50% capacity as part of Phase 2.


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(Image: 19th Ave Salon)

The new 19th Ave E shop introduced safety measures like wearing masks, sanitizing products and putting customers’ personal bags inside disposable bags. De Maria is choosing to keep the shop at 25% capacity for now and said that, beyond implementing COVID-19 restrictions, managing the high number of customers and accommodating clients needing significant hair touch ups because of the lockdown has kept the salon busy.

“The challenging part has been communication — everyone having to wear a mask, putting color around the mask, rinsing them out with the mask,” he said.

Adding to challenges of the store’s takeoff, De Maria said the shop was broken into during its opening week and store computers were stolen.

“Now we’re just like what else can we get hit with,” he said. “We’re going to be open and have fun, stay safe, make people happy and get their hair done. So many people want to get their hair done safely and they’re willing to come in.”

Bianca Brookman, owner of Aria Salon, has also noticed gratitude among the community since reopening the shop shortly after Phase 1.5 approval.

“They’re very thankful to have their hair done — that’s all I’ve been noticing is people are extremely happy to come in and they want to support us,” she said.

Aria Salon has been open for over twenty years on the Hill, although it moved locations twice before landing its current spot on 15th Ave in 2019. The shop increased to 50% capacity in Phase 2 and has implemented COVID-19 precautionary features like plexiglass dividers in between shampoo bowls and dryer chairs.

“It’s very important to me, especially with our third move — and we just moved — that we have a very clean environment and that we mean business, safety is the most important thing,” Brookman said.

Brookman said business at Aria’s new 15th Ave E location been overall steady but, while adjusting to state COVID-19 requirements, most stylists have had longer work days.

“The days are stretched a lot longer, where we might have taken a half an hour for a haircut, now we book forty-five minutes so that we have plenty of time to clean our stations and have it prepared for the next client,” she said.

If you’re looking to give your favorite salon a boost, but aren’t quite ready for a COVID-19-era haircut, you can buy a gift card and make plans for a future makeover. Meanwhile, businesses near the East Precinct including Bang Salon could also use a boost.

At Aria, the salon chairs were already six feet apart, Brookman said, and state requirements have led to extra time spent cleaning between clients, not having an indoor waiting area and staggering appointments. She said the business is currently offering most of its hair and waxing services, with masked beard trims doable but challenging.

“Going around ears with the mask has not been a problem — it’s just another day for us, the new norm,” Brookman said.


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