By Shawn Chitnis


DENVER (CBS4) – Hairstylists and salon owners say they need assistance from the government to survive the extended break from work now that Colorado has ordered their industry and similar businesses to close until April 30. They do not have a legal alternative to keep working and professionals worry that attempting to cut hair from home could still spread coronavirus.

(credit: Roman and Semion Kirkirov)

“Every time I wake up and go to sleep, I’m worried about my team members,” said Roman Kirkirov, co-owner of Semion Barbershop For All. “I want them to have a job to come back to.”

Kirkirov and his brother Semion manage two locations in Denver and Aurora. They have nearly 40 employees who collect commission or get paid hourly. They have reserve funds to pay their staff for a couple weeks while they are closed but those workers cannot make the income they depend on alone, especially from tips. The business has created an account to collect donations for staff.

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“That’s huge. In our industry tips are of significant importance,” he said. “I would say I would like the government to step in as soon as possible.”

Other stylists at different salons are often independent contractors. They rent out a chair at a salon and operate like a small business of one paying their own taxes and insurance. In the days leading up to the closure, some salons were cleaning and sanitizing well beyond their regular practice. They also limited the number of people inside to six at a time.

(credit: Roman and Semion Kirkirov)

“The anxiety is insane. The stress of not having any income whatsoever,” said Beth Ravenscroft, a hairstylist who works as an independent contractor. “It would be nice if we had something setup like unemployment.”

She has worked for 21 years, the last 15 at Salon Palazzo in Littleton. Ravenscroft hasn’t worked since last week. She says while they were working hard to keep the salon sanitary, cancellations reached 70 percent before they were forced to close. Her husband is also an independent contractor in the construction industry so they do not have any income coming into their household. Unlike other industries where employees of a business can apply for unemployment, she and her husband cannot pursue that option for now.

“We just want to be able to feed our families,” she said. “Pay our mortgages, and keep our lights on.”

The passion to help clients look their best keeps her going and Ravenscroft plans to return to this profession when she can. Her customers are like family, she points out that when you work with someone every three to four weeks for a haircut, they see their stylist more often than some extended family members.

“Oh I will continue to do this,” she said. “This has been a lifelong passion of mine and I will continue to make people look beautiful.”

Kirkirov and his brother continue a tradition of four generations working as barbers on their father’s side. The family taught them that it’s a tradition based on a skill, which is universal at all times around the world. But this is a unique moment challenging that belief. He knows a haircut is not the same as food and water but brings meaning to clients.

Their two locations have separate landlords and they are working with them to handle the rent. Kirkirov shared that payroll is about half of their revenue but they tried to prepare for an emergency and warned their staff to do the same while the economy was strong. The business was looking into a fund to protect staff in a situation just like the coronavirus outbreak when everyone is out of work for an extended period. He plans to put it in place when they reopen, asking for two percent from team members and matching it to create a safety net in the future.

“You feel better, you feel confident in yourself and your looks,” he said. “As long as we can survive, we can come back.”

 

Shawn Chitnis

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