The Turnpike Barber Shop in Windsor Locks was all set to reopen May 20 until Governor Lamont extended its closure two days before the expected opening.
Governor Lamont’s decision to reopen barbershops and hair salons on May 20 took a hairpin curve two days prior to the date, when he announced pushing back the reopening to early June. By way of explanation, he said hundreds of shop owners had contacted him saying they were not ready. The owners cited issues with the need to still change business space and practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the inability for some workers to find child care for children still required to stay home from school.
Two responses to the extension occurred in less time than it takes to flick a pair of scissors. Professionals like Peg Tillona-Upton and her brother Richard Tillona, who jointly own the Turnpike Barber Shop on Route 75 in Windsor Locks, were disappointed, to say the least. “We were complying with all the rules,” said Peg, who had already booked appointments for opening day and beyond. “We had to call everyone and cancel.”
The rules Peg referred to include that these businesses open to a maximum of 50 % capacity, only take appointments, close waiting areas, arrange workstations six feet apart and, preferably, have a physical barrier like a plastic screen between each work area. In addition, tools would have to be soaked in disinfectants between clients, and a hand sanitizing station would be required at entrance points.
Still, another shop owner in the North Central News area – who asked not to be identified – expressed relief over the postponement because of her fear of inadvertently spreading the virus, even with the required precautions. She admitted to emailing her state representative repeatedly, asking him to help postpone the reopening as May 20 drew closer.
“We love our customers. We don’t want to put them in jeopardy,” she said, adding, if the salon she has maintained for 20 years remained closed as others opened, her customers were apt to go elsewhere.
The Turnpike Barber Shop, established by Peg and Richard’s father in 1953, survived the devastation of the 1979 Windsor Locks tornado across from the Bradley Field Airport. She said, “My brother and I would like to keep it open until our retirement, but we haven’t been able to pay our rent since March 1.”
According to the makeshift sign on the Turnpike Barber Shop door, it will reopen June 1.
By Laura Hayden