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For Salons and Gyms, the Reopening is Welcome, if Restrained

When you walk into the Bleach + Blush hair salon on Ponce, everything looks normal: One woman is sitting in a chair getting her hair cut and styled, another is on her phone under the rotating hair dryer. It feels like an ordinary salon scene except that, from the stylists to the clients, everyone is wearing a mask. It may not feel ideal to wear a mask for an entire appointment – or all day in the case of the hairdressers – but it’s better than having your roots grow in and split ends. “Even in these circumstances … at least we get to do hair,” says Bleach + Blush owner Lily Gonzalez. “The world just feels so different, but at least we can do what we love.” 

The salon opened on May 18 with the rest of the businesses that were a part of the Phase 1 Reopening. Following CDC guidelines, they only take a few customers at a time and they have removed chairs to ensure six feet between stations. Of course, in between appointments they sanitize everything. “In the hair industry, you have to sanitize your things, so it’s nothing really new,” Gonzalez said. “What’s new is cleaning the chairs. We didn’t do that before, we just sanitized our tools.” 

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Samantha Nazario, Bleach + Blush customer

Like restaurants and retail, Bleach + Blush is limited to 50 percent capacity. So while their intake is smaller, their waiting list is longer. “I’m booked until the end of August,” the owner said at the end of June. 

The waiting list is also longer because of all the women who were due for a cut or color while the salon was closed for two months. Gonzalez said the most popular service since reopening has been balayage and highlights, adding, “Women just want to do their hair and they want to feel good.”

With the Phase 2 Reopening in June, gyms were also allowed to reopen, like Pure Barre on Altara Avenue just north of the Shops at Merrick Park. Similar to salons, gyms have to modify how they operate. “We’re requiring everyone to wear masks when they enter the studio,” said instructor Callie Jardine. “It’s half capacity so we’re making sure every person has six feet between them at all times.” They take everyone’s temperature upon entry and keep the studio doors open to keep the fresh air circulating.

Instead of getting your own equipment when you enter the studio, each spot is already set up with a mat, ball, weights and resistance band. And all of this is sanitized in between classes. Usually the class warms up in the center of the room and then moves to the barre (like a ballet barre) at any of the four walls. Then you stay at your designated spot at the barre for the entirety of the class. As of Mayor Gimenez’s early July emergency order, masks must be worn during the class as well. The biggest challenge for Jardine is not being able to do hands-on corrections. 

Like Gonzalez, Jardine also found that people were itching to get back to a real gym after using makeshift at-home gyms for months. “I think people are excited to come back. It’s almost more of a mental health thing,” Jardine said. “People have said to me, ‘It feels good to be back, I can’t do home workouts anymore.’”