Local business owner won’t open Friday, says he is establishing safety plan

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – For the many women (and men as well) who are missing a trip to the hair salon, Governor Brian Kemp’s order to reopen the state does include barbers and salons. That’s despite the fact it is a business where close contact is necessary.

Kemp’s order goes into effect tomorrow. However, Rob Horton who owns Rob’s at Drayton Tower says he will not open until at least May 5. He says he needs time to establish all the safety protocols now being required by the state and also to buy a supply of masks, gloves and even some infrared thermometers. And he is having some trouble getting everything.

“So, I got on eBay, Amazon and a couple of other sites,” Horton told me. “Those thermometers are ranging in the $250 dollar range but normally it be about $45 to $50. And this mask I bought for $10 at a local pharmacy.”

He says all staff and customers must wear a mask. Customers will have temperatures taken before entering but will not be allowed to sit and wait and read a magazine for example. As a matter of face, he says they have to throw all their magazines away. He also says customers will have to pay directly to their stylist and not at the front desk.

Establishing the safety protocols is taking time and Horton says he has no plans to open Friday and he’s not aware of many, if any salons that are opening at that time. He remains very concerned about the number of cases of coronavirus.

“If something happens to someone we can’t replace people and yesterday was the highest number of COVIID test positive rates in the state so it is puzzling for me to go back to work knowing that., Horton said. “We we were going to go back on Tuesday and then I had a Zoom meeting with my staff this morning and we decided to go back on the fifth (May 5) because data changes that quickly and that’s a huge factor in my decision making and in a lot of businesses.”

He is proceeding to try to open within two weeks but would like to see more testing. “We are in such close contact with our clients and staff that I don’t want to be the factor that determines if the rest of the nation goes back ,” he told us “I think that we should gather more data and see what happens and then we;ll follow suit I think that we should gather more data and see what happens and then we’ll follow suit,” he said. “

Horton may have been luckier than many business owners in the sense that he says he dd get funding through the Paycheck Protection Program along with some financing from SBA. Yet he says when they can reopen, finances will be an issue for him as an owner and for individual stylists.

“On a regular day we would have nine stylists and everybody would be working but now because of social distancing requirements, we will have to stagger stylists.”

He says stylists will work four hour shifts which means they can serve fewer customers in that shorter shift. “We are looking at removing at least 50 percent of everyone’s income at least for awhile.”

Horton’s business as well as others included in the reopen order (like a restaurant) rely on regular clients. Those customers become familiar to staff and in a lot of cases, become friends. Now how these businesses are able to operate in a safe way is going to have to change.

“I have said a million times that sometimes this appointment is the closest contact that my client will have with another human for 30 days and so how do we resolve that? How do you practice social distancing and still have a good customer and a good salon experience? There is a direct relationship that is being removed from this process and that is sad to watch,” said Horton.

Like others, Horton says he is navigating business waters he would never have conceived or and would certainly never have chosen.

“We are glad to reopen but we’re going to do it on a timeline that’s healthy for us and for Savannah,” he told us.

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