Personal Services Reopen In Colorado, With Barbers In High Demand To Fix ‘COVID-19 Haircuts.’ But Not All Plan To Return Right Away

Small Businesses In Colorado Springs Think About Reopening After Coronavirus
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Genaro Vasquez is getting his Downtown Barbers shop in Colorado Springs picked up and ready on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, for when the state’s mandatory closure order ends for non-essential businesses.

Barber Steve Gomez was hunkered down at his home in Pueblo on Wednesday when he heard an unexpected knock. He was shocked to see one of his most loyal clients standing at his doorstep.

“He knocked on the door and says, ‘I was going up and down these streets. I knew you lived around here,’” Gomez said. The man said he was in need of a haircut and wanted to know if Gomez would be at Prestige Barbershop on Friday.

“I didn’t even know people had my phone number,” Gomez said.

He hasn’t been cutting hair since March 19, when COVID-19 forced the barbershop he works at to close. With parts of Colorado opening back up now, Gomez said his clients have called him this week wondering if they could make appointments. 

“His phone and the house phone has not stopped ringing,” said Gomez’s wife, Peggy. “I don’t even know how in the hell they got the house phone number.”

On Thursday, Gomez said he was out on his front porch when a car drove by and someone yelled out the window, “Hey, Steve!” It was another client.

He’s even run into people while shopping for groceries.

“Another guy told me he had a COVID-19 haircut and he says, ‘You’re going to have to fix it.’” Gomez said. “I guess his wife or someone peeled him real good.”

Full disclosure: Gomez is my uncle. He’s worked as a barber in Pueblo for at least 50 years.

Now he’s booked solid through Tuesday, but it hasn't been an easy decision to go back to the shop today when the state allows it. He didn't want to book out further than Tuesday in case he doesn't feel comfortable or is forced to stop cutting hair again. Plus, Gomez has to space out clients now to make time for fully disinfecting his chair and tools. He said he plans to wear a mask and wants his clients to, also.

My uncle Steve is just one barber who is headed back to the shop on Friday, May 1, as parts of the personal service industry are allowed to reopen in much of the state.

While Denver metro counties have extended stay-at-home orders, the rest of Colorado is largely following the lead of Gov. Jared Polis, who let the statewide stay-at-home order expire in favor of a gradual reopening and new safer-at-home rules.

The rules specify that as of May 1, businesses like massage parlors, acupuncturists, cosmetologists and nail salons can reopen. So can retail businesses, though they have to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. The next phase of safer-at-home, which comes on Monday, will allow other commercial businesses to open with up to 50 percent of employees working in-person.

Whether or not businesses are allowed to open today or at a later date, because of a local stay-at-home extension, not everyone will jump at the chance.

Cosmetologist Anna Nelson works in Adams County, where the stay-at-home order ends on May 8. Her salon's owners may reopen then, but they’re considering many factors before they make a final decision.

“They feel it would be best if we don’t because they want to make sure the regulations are in place and that they have enough supplies, and that it’s safe for their employees and their clients,” she said and adds that she’s still worried herself.

“I am scared to go back due to the fact that some of my health reasons — if I do end up getting sick, there is a very likely chance I will not survive it,” Nelson said.

She would prefer to wait it out until she knows it’s definitely safe for her and her clients, and that the salon's owners have said she won't face consequences if she doesn't come back right away.

But Jerry Vasquez, who owns the Downtown Barbershop in Colorado Springs, plans to reopen on May 1 and said he’s looking forward to cutting hair again. He’s 88-years-old and has had the shop for more than 20 years.

“At my age, what do I have to worry about?” he said.

Like Gomez in Pueblo, Vasquez said new and old clients have called him frequently throughout the week to see if he’ll be open for businesses.

“After two months of not having a haircut, they’re glad to get rid of it,” he said.

Vasquez works by himself, which will help keep the number of people inside the shop limited, he said. He still plans to only take walk-ins and won’t require his clients to wear a mask.

“Whatever they want to do. If they want to come in without a mask, I got one and that’s all that matters,” Vasquez said.