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Hair cuts in May? How will that work? One Boise barbershop shares its plan

Get Local presented by 116 and West

Next month, if benchmarks for public health continue on track, hair salons, barbershops, and other personal care businesses could reopen. Gov. Brad Little’s phased approach would give these businesses a way to reopen for clients – provided they can “meet business protocols.”

One Boise barbershop already started planning and shared their thinking publicly – in part to help the public understand the plan, but in part to put ideas out for others.

Chris Bentley owns and works in The Barber Story on the Boise Bench. But before the world of hair, he worked in the hairy world of human resources and scheduling.

“I think that focusing on solutions more than problems is the only way to fix the problems,” Bentley said. “My plan is to get back up (and running). How can I mitigate the concerns that everyone has.”

The plan: the basics, and the schedule

That plan, laid out in detail online, focuses on social distancing, increased sanitization, and other measures you might expect. But Bentley also put a focus on just how to schedule a team of four barbers.

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A new, staggered lineup will minimize the number of people in the shop on Latah at any one time.

“I understand we aren’t going back to before. We need to mitigate the challenges.”

He said a key focus was to ensure the businesses and its barbers could serve as many customers as possible and keep revenue flowing. With staff staggered, appointments will start at 8am and run as late as 6pm. Cuts will also be offered on Saturdays and Sundays.

Making adjustments

The pace will also slow down a bit.

“With our industry, it’s pretty fast paced, and that’s not adequate for what’s going on right now,” he said. “We will all start and finish up around the same time – then collectively clean the shop in between waves of clients.”

The idea is to start cuts together at the top of each hour, with 15 minutes penciled in for cleaning.

“We will be wearing masks and gloves. Just got an order put in yesterday for a couple gallons of hand sanitizer. We are asking clients to wear masks,” he said.”

The shop won’t require masks for now, but hopes folks will help them play it safe.

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“I understand about civil liberties, and I don’t want to impose my will, but I have to balance that with protecting my community.”

Some services will stay off the menu for now.

“Myself and one other won’t be doing any beard services, just because we can’t do that with a mask over your beard,” Bentley said. “I can easily bend down the elastic when I do your ear on a haircut but not a beard that’s covering 80% of your face.”

Revenue and demand

He hopes to keep his customers and employees safe, while also keeping the business going.

“It’s the reality that we are dealing with,” he said. “I don’t think that the revenue loss is going to be so detrimental that the business won’t be able to survive. We squirreled things and invest wisely, but we may have to tighten our belt with some play money.”

Bentley said one big purchase he hoped to make will wait.

“I was supposed to buy a house with my wife in April, but we’ve been eating away our savings throughout this,” he said.

He thinks if the state does enter stage two on May 16th, there will be significant pent up demand.

“I can’t tell you how much (demand we’re seeing). It’s kind of frustrating because a lot of people… want to get their hair cut. You look good, you feel good and that kind of mentality.”

He hopes that by putting out the plan, others can look at it and offer ideas – or borrow pieces in their own shops.

“If you can nitpick this and you can say my way is terrible and you have a better way, we want to hear it. This at least starts the conversation.”

Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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