Walk-in manicures have been my go-to since graduating college. There’s no telling what my schedule might look like on any given day, so popping by a local nail salon with the ability to give manicures on the spot has been key for keeping my nails pristine. Going without professional nail care is just one minor aspect of our everyday lives that’s changed during the pandemic. For me, it’s been a minor inconvenience. For salon owners, it’s been devastating.
After six weeks without a fresh polish change, the state of Georgia, where I’m currently living, allowed nail and hair salons to open their doors again. I immediately called my go-to salon hoping they were one of the few businesses actually taking customers. Instead of just walking in, I placed a call and made an appointment. My experience turned out to be interesting and instructive.
I used to visit LaVista Nail & Spa to find the tables full of technicians, clients, children waiting patiently with their parents, and a line of customers waiting for their service. While it’s been routine for technicians to wear masks, I have seldom seen a client wear a mask as well.
When I arrived on Saturday, LaVista looked very different from its usual hustle and bustle. I waved at the single nail technician inside the building and she unlocked the main door for me using a towel she sprayed with a cleaner. We were the only two people in the building and both of us wore masks. The technician, who I soon discovered was the owner, asked me not to touch the color choices. She helped me pick one out, we both washed our hands, and she got to work.
After 45 minutes in my own personal nail salon, the owner put on a glove to touch my credit card for payment, I used a personal pen to sign the receipt, and washed my hands before exiting the building. As I left, I could see the owner wiping down her station. I left the building with an ear-to-ear smile. “Finally,” I thought. “Some semblance of normalcy.”
But, this experience was actually far from “normal.” I can recall numerous trips to the nail salon prior to this pandemic where I could open the door by myself, the room was crowded with people, I touched nails colors freely, and I didn’t use my own personal pen to sign a receipt and tip my technician.
People and mainstream media outlets alike are attacking Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for allowing businesses, like nail salons, to open up again. Dr. Keren Landman at the New York Times wrote an entire column criticizing her home state of Georgia for allegedly screwing up the reopening process.
While I’m not advocating the people of Georgia galavant through the city and lick poles on the MARTA, personal responsibility is necessary and makes it possible to reopen businesses, help the economy, and uphold individual liberties. My experience at the nail salon is just one example of how many businesses can shift their models and use innovative strategies to open up, keep their livelihoods afloat, and serve customers.
Keeping people safe and reopening businesses are not mutually exclusive goals. As LaVista Nail & Spa’s precautionary measures demonstrate, businesses can keep customers safe and keep their doors open at the same time, preventing further economic distress and returning hope to workers who need their jobs. It’ll take some creativity, but we can do it.