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Hairstyling cut by virus

Salons, barbershops remain closed

Only a few weeks ago, Rocco Bianconi’s business was flourishing.

Having built Rocco’s Barbershop into a downtown staple, he was constantly busy with loyal clientele.

“The people whose hair I cut, they’re not just customers, they’re friends,” Bianconi said. “I can truly say that.”

But then the COVID-19 outbreak swept across the globe and ushered in a new normal – not only for Bianconi, but for business owners everywhere.

Let’s call it Rocco’s modern life.

And as some Texas businesses are slowly allowed to reopen beginning today, Bianconi and other barbers and hair salon owners are left in limbo.

Gyms, tattoo shops, hair salons, barbershops and massage parlors are among the businesses who will remain shuttered for the time being. No definitive date has been given as to when they can reopen.

Bianconi and others in his field can’t help but question the decision.

“I disagree with it totally,” Bianconi said. “I don’t want to talk about other types of businesses. But how can you say it’s OK to eat a meal a couple of feet away from other people, but it’s not OK to what I do? How is that more safe? It’s not fair. All of us are trying to make a living, earn a wage.”

Further, Bianconi said on average there are typically no more than four people total in his shop: himself, a customer in the chair and two others waiting.

That’s far less than the standard limit of “no more than 10” in a single gathering, he pointed out.

Gretchen Pelzel-Counts operates Pelzel’s Barbershop & Salon and Southern Junkiez Boutique & Gifts in downtown Pilot Point. Like Bianconi, she also has suffered the effects of the COVID shutdown, but even without customers present, the boutique side of the business has kept things otherwise busy during the downturn.

“It stinks that we can’t go back to cutting hair yet,” Pelzel-Counts said. “It wasn’t the outcome that we wanted, but we are OK with it because we love our town and our clients. We want everybody to stay safe and healthy. That’s the main thing. We definitely bleed Orange and Black in here. We’re going to keep a positive attitude.”

Although the salon is closed, listing their boutique offerings through social media has been beneficial, Pelzel-Counts said. She was prepping some online orders for shipping Wednesday afternoon along with a couple of friends.

“We do have the boutique that is awesome and that’s really helped,” Pelzel-Counts said. “Our goal is to open the boutique for a couple of hours beginning this Saturday – just on Saturdays for now – so that we can have some customers in here.”

She added that a maximum of three customers at a time would likely be the limit, as the boutique aims to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s 25% capacity restrictions for restaurants and retail businesses for the next couple of weeks.

“We’re going to take every precaution that we can,” Pelzel-Counts said. “We’re excited about seeing our customers again.”

Bianconi said his wife’s employment has kept the family afloat while his shop is closed. He added that some of his customers have reached out to offer monetary donations if they were needed. He appreciated the offers, he said, but doesn’t need it at this time.

“I’m very lucky that we’ve been able to save some money as a family and also that my wife still has her income,” he said. “Not all barbers or stylists can say that. I hope we get to the point sometime in May where shops can be open again. A lot of people need to go back to work to provide for themselves and their families.”

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