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Hair salons vowing to defy state closure orders in the face of financial ruin

Angel Russell/KCBX
The Shear Elegance salon in Grover Beach.

Some hair salon owners throughout California, including ones along the Central Coast, plan to reopen their doors August 17, despite orders from the governor and local health officials to remain closed.

Carrie Duncan, owner of Shear Elegance in Grover Beach, is one of them.

“Enough is enough,” Carrie Duncan said. “The state of California is the only state that's not allowing the shops to open. Many of us are in jeopardy of losing our homes, I’m in jeopardy of losing my shop.

Currently, hair salons are only allowed to operate outdoors. But Duncan says that is not a realistic solution for many salons.

“We do a lot of mens haircuts, yes,” Duncan said. “ primarily our income is cuts and colors and perms and ladies that get their hair washed once a week, so cutting hair outside is not an option for us.”

Duncan acknowledges the dangers of COVID-19, but said her business will do everything in its power to prevent transmission.

“We have 1600 hours of training in cosmetology and most of that is in sanitation,” Duncan said. “We have taken our sanitation to a level that no other that no other industry has done.”

But the decision to reopen could come with ramifications. The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which regulates those businesses, warned owners back in May they may face fines or potentially lose their license for violating the governor's orders.

“I am very afraid,” Duncan said. “But at a point you have to say, ‘Am I going to sit here and do nothing? Or am I going to stand up one last time and try to save my business?’ I choose my business, I choose my staff.”

One of Duncan’s staff members joining in the reopening is cosmetologist Cristina Vidaurri. She and her boyfriend are both struggling being unemployed while raising their 9-year-old daughter, and preparing for another baby on the way.

“This whole thing about EDD income, it's not enough,” Vidaurri said. “Whatever anyone is saying about it being too much money, we make more money working. It’s more helpful to the government if we do get back to work”

Vidaurri said she knows the risk she’s taking, but it's a risk that many people in the industry are willing to take along with her in solidarity to financially survive during the pandemic.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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