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Salons in style again

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | May 16, 2020 1:08 AM

Locals have hand in today’s opening

Today’s opening of stage two brings with it a flood of Idahoans satisfying the urge to feel something many have not felt since the coronavirus pandemic began: beautiful.

“I’m very excited to see our clients again,” said Marie LeCroix of Blondies Salon in Coeur d’Alene. “When it feels like the world is spinning out of control, the only thing you have control over is yourself. When some people get stressed, they go out and get their hair done.”

Hair salons, spas and beauty parlors are opening up across North Idaho and around the state today, provided they meet strict protocols. Those protocols, as it turns out, were developed in part by beauty professionals in Kootenai County.

“I have 45 employees,” said Tammy Schneider, owner of Zi Spa in Coeur d’Alene. “These last few months, it’s just been me here, puttering around, trying to figure out how to make things work.”

Schneider owns one of thousands of salons across Idaho frozen by the COVID-19 crisis.

As time passed and restrictions loosened, Schneider said salons around the area started to network — first in casual conversations, then more formally on Facebook. From there, the Idaho Beauty Professionals Association was born.

“The association was designed during the pandemic, but it wasn’t designed because of the pandemic,” said Michelle Foeller of J Miller Salon and one of the founding stylists of the new group. “Our hope is to have a group of professionals in our industry to help steer education and create a connection amongst our peers.”

The first members collaborated to brainstorm what a post-COVID salon would look like, and how it would operate. Spearheaded by Coeur d’Alene Council member Kiki Miller, the group quickly organized and brought in Panhandle Health District, one of the voices that would have the ear of Gov. Brad Little.

“Kiki did a great job of putting these folks in a virtual room together and taking the next step forward,” said Joe Righello, environmental and health protection administrator for Panhandle Health.

Over March and April, Miller, Righello, salon owners, spa owners and stylists came together on Zoom to predict, interpret and deconstruct how health protocols might work in the beauty salon industry.

“These people know their industry better than anyone,” Miller said of the salon workers and stylists. “It makes sense for them to come together and figure out what works and what won’t.”

Righello said the group recognized immediately some of the challenges they would face in this new normal.

“Just take the salons’ physical set-ups, for instance,” he said. “Everybody has to practice social distancing. Other businesses like restaurants can move tables and chairs around. But what about [salons] with chairs that are mounted and bolted to the ground? It’s going to create a significant problem to try and social distance there.”

The newly-formed association then brainstormed workarounds, Righello said, to try and keep everyone safe.

That approach, Schneider agreed, is what she felt inspires her so much about the new group.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of my Zi Spa family,” she said.

“With the protocols we’re following — that everyone seems ready to follow — we’re making this as safe as possible,” Schneider added.

Foeller said the new association adds a new level of safety not envisioned by the CDC.

“I feel like we’re able to share information much easier,” Foeller said.

That feeling of coming together among Idaho beauty professionals has exploded exponentially. What started as a handful of stylists on a Facebook page now — only two months later — includes more than 1,600 followers across the state. Furthermore, the direction Righello said the association was able to voice back to the governor’s coronavirus team in late April was reflected in Brad Little’s stage two protocols for salons across Idaho.

“Out of all the bad things we’ve seen with this public emergency,” Righello said, “the deaths, of course, the shutdown, the illnesses and closures — we’ve also seen this spirit with the businesses coming together. It’s been one of the really good things to come out of all of this.”

The stylists and salon owners all agreed today’s opening will be a positive — and, more importantly, a healthy — step for everyone.

“I feel very comfortable for our clients,” Foeller said. “The amount of cases we have in Idaho speaks volumes to how careful and how diligent everyone is behaving toward this crisis.”

Miller, meanwhile, is exploring grant opportunities for the group and looking for local avenues to acquire masks, gloves and face shields for the stylists and salon owners she says she’s grown a kinship with.

“These folks really deserve to be commended,” she said. “This really could have gone badly, but instead, they came together and built a resource to help everyone else in the business.”

Schneider added that she has a renewed confidence as she re-opens Zi Spa.

“I feel real confident for our doors to open Saturday,” she said. “Just getting our clientele back, it’s exciting.”

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Tammy Schneider of Zi Spa said she was thrilled salon owners, stylists and other beauty professionals are working together through the Idaho Beauty Professionals Association. Zi Spa in Coeur d'Alene is one of thousands of salons, barbershops and independent stylist chairs to open up today as part of Gov. Brad Little's stage two reopening. (CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press)

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Miller