Hair salons and barbershops in Maine are now getting requests from out-of-state customers who want services they aren’t allowed to get at home.
Last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced the extension of the state's stay-at-home order to May 31 and her administration's plan to gradually reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Under the "Stay Safer at Home" order, certain businesses like golf courses, auto dealerships, pet groomers, hair salons and barbershops were allowed to reopen last Friday.
The Akari salon in Portland is getting ready to reopen its doors on May 18. Owner Jeffrey Blais says he wanted to wait so he could stock up on personal protective equipment and make sure he's complying with a 6-page packet of rules meant to keep people from getting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
"I have 8,000 square feet and 30 employees so getting all the supplies and PPE to do business safely for my staff and clients has been a challenge, but I think I've got that all in place," Blais said. "Three months ago, I could've gone online and bought all that stuff and had no problem, now it's all gone."
Blais said he is working through industry friends to get PPE from New York.
As for the customers, he says they're overwhelmingly excited and have been calling since the moment the governor gave the OK for a restart.
"We get emails from women wanting to book full days," he said.
To Blais’ surprise, some of those emails and phone calls are also coming from out-of-state.
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People from Massachusetts, even as far away as Rhode Island and Vermont, have been contacting Akari trying to get all kinds of treatments.
"Six women, wanting to come up to Portland to get as many services as we can book," Blais explained. "They wanted cuts, colors, manicures, massages. Everything that was on my menu."
Some of those services are not allowed until stage 2 of Maine's "Stay Safer at Home" order because of the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state residents.
Blais' staff is reminding anyone who is not from Maine wishing to book an appointment that they would have to isolate upon coming into the state first.
"None of them seem to understand or know about the quarantine or any of the things that are in place to protect us," he said, adding that some of his staff and customers are already concerned about the virus' presence in Maine.
"I have staff members that are nervous to come to work and customers that are nervous to come get their hair done," he said.
There are also consequences for businesses that do not follow the rules. On Thursday, regional Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials announced it was launching investigations into at least three Maine barbershops after complaints were received for COVID-19 safety-related issues.