On June 15, New Jersey began allowing clothing stores and hair salons to reopen. Shoppers are approaching their newfound freedom cautiously, taking baby steps as they emerge from their homes. The quarantine has wreaked havoc on many women’s hair styles, length and color, and for some, their first order of post-lockdown business is a return to their hairdresser. Some hair stylists are working in their parking lots, or customer backyards, for those who will go outside but not inside. Salons that have reopened are adapting with masked, socially distanced, sanitized environments. Clothing stores are also dealing with changes to their policies, with masks, social distancing and frequent sanitizing required. They are also grappling with other issues, however, like how to handle fittings when the dressing rooms are still in lockdown.
Marsha Motzen of Englewood got her hair cut as soon as she could, eager to get out from feeling like she was “under house arrest without having done anything wrong.” A client of Lillian Lee in Bergenfield, she said she felt very comfortable with all the precautions in place. Like going into a medical office, she waited in her car until called. Once inside, she was handed a sealed plastic bag with a smock, and a poncho that goes over the smock. She put her clothes into the plastic bag. Her stylist wore a shield in addition to a mask. No one was in the next chair. With her hair tamed, and a fresh manicure and pedicure, she said, “I feel human for the first time in three months!” Clothes shopping, however, isn’t on the agenda. Motzen said she still has clothes with tags hanging in the closet that she bought for her canceled Pesach trip.
Eli Tanous Salon at The Shops at Riverside, 390 Hackensack Avenue, Hackensack, is booking more time between appointments and disinfecting on the hour. Partitions have been placed between chairs, which are now 10 feet apart. “Clients and stylists have been very cooperative,” said Tanous, the eponymous proprietor of the salon. “We were very nervous, but after the first week, we saw how efficient it was. Seems like we prefer this now. It’s very organized and clean and we have extended time with clients.”
Clients who are coming in with grown-out hair are ready for a change. “Ninety percent are open to a new look, which is exciting,” said Tanous. “Clients who have had the same style for the past 15 years are open to new styles. People usually want to go lighter in summer, and now they’re leaning toward warmer and subtle colors, not cool blondes. Younger clients want shorter blunt cuts.” Wash-and-go styles are in demand; no one wants to blow dry their hair in the summer, he noted.
Clients who color their hair were saved during lockdown by the salon’s color kit deliveries. Stylists mixed the formula and delivered it to clients’ homes, instructing them over video or with phone calls as needed. “The color kits were a big hit,” said Tanous. “We sold over 500. We also did virtual consultations for new clients who wanted a kit; we set them up with a stylist for 15-minute Facetime consultations and were able to do a close match with color. One hundred percent of the color kits were successful.” Many older clients are opting to go the other direction, Tanous has observed, letting their hair return to its natural color, but in a managed way, by getting highlights or lowlights to blend in the gray as the color grows out.
For clients who are still hesitant to come into the shop, Tanous is set to launch Josephine Platinum Guest Services—a fully equipped mini salon in a van, completely disinfected and equipped with U/V lights, that will travel to the client’s home. Tanous announced the service on Instagram and was inundated with appointments; on the first night he already had 20 people on the waiting list. He’s considering adding another van.
The past few months have been difficult, and Tanous appreciates his customers’ loyalty. “I want to thank people in the community who have stood by our side and showed us their true friendship during quarantine,” he said.
The lockdown closed Carly’z Craze, the women’s and girls’ clothing store at 472 Cedar Lane in Teaneck, for three months, leaving Alene Brodsky Bloom with little revenue and plenty of vendor bills. But she took the time to build an e-commerce website to allow her customers to shop online. “I never would have been able to create it without that kind of time,” she said. By the third month, the website was live and virtual customers began to make online purchases. Now the store is open again but her online business is still a priority. “It’s a wonderful thing to have, to grow and develop,” she said. An online shopping platform gives customers the option to shop whenever they want—a big plus since the store is closed on Saturday for religious reasons and Sunday by law. Customers can make purchases online and pick up items in the store, which are being left close to the door for grab-and-go convenience. They also offer shipping services for clients’ purchases.
With no firm rules about how to reopen, Brodsky Bloom researched what other stores were doing. Most are not opening their dressing rooms and she followed suit; sanitizing between customers is not practical. Masked shoppers can make purchases at the plexiglass shielded register and take the clothes home to try on—in several sizes if they are unsure. Carly’z Craze is giving a full refund for returns, which are kept in bags and not touched for two days before being put back onto the racks and shelves.
Shoppers are returning to Carly’z Craze for the everyday basics—tops, skirts, dresses and accessories—that are always in demand. Although there is still uncertainty about schools opening, and whether or not Americans will be able to attend seminary in Israel, the girls have to be ready and that means getting new clothes. Brodsky Bloom has been working with vendors with whom she has a long-time relationship, like Kosher Casual and Kiki Riki, and has plenty of styles in stock. “I really appreciate my customers coming back, their understanding of the way we’re doing business, and their expression of happiness that we are open.”
By Bracha Schwartz