Under orange zone COVID restrictions, impact on 'non-essential' business is uncertain

Nov 19, 2020

Salons in the state-designated COVID microcluster Orange Zone in Erie County are among personal care businesses whose doors will be closed Friday morning. For at least one local business, it’s lead to booming demand and an uncertain future.

Jennifer Bohlen (left), owner of the Local Honey Beauty Hive salon in Buffalo, works with another stylist to color a customer's hair. The salon is among the personal care businesses closing Friday under New York State's Orange Zone COVID micro-cluster restrictions.
Credit Local Honey Beauty Hive Instagram / Local Honey Beauty Hive

Business at Local Honey Beauty Hive on Niagara Street has been through the roof since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that much of Erie County would move from a yellow zone designation as one of the state’s COVID microclusters to an orange zone.

The announcement led to a flood of text messages from customers with upcoming appointments wanting to know what was going to happen.

“We wanted to try to get as many clients in as we could, so we actually worked until midnight [Wednesday] night. And then this morning, we came in early and started at 8:30. And we’re working until midnight tonight just to try and accommodate as many clients as possible,” Bohlen said Thursday.

Personal care businesses deemed non-essential include:
• Hair salons
• Barbershops
• Cosmetologists
• Estheticians
• Nail technicians and nail salons
• Spas
• Laser hair removal and electrolysis
• Tattoo and piercing parlors
• Gyms, fitness centers or classes

Bohlen and her staff moved from a smaller location in North Buffalo to a larger West Side location in April, but had to wait two months until the last round of pandemic-related restrictions on non-essential businesses was lifted to officially open the doors. Despite fewer opportunities to go out in public – to in-person workplaces, bars and restaurants and other social gatherings – the business has grown in the last five months.

“Beauty is one thing people spend money on no matter what, I’ve learned, especially in the hard times,” Bohlen said.

Bohlen employs three other stylists and a marketing director. And though she said she understands government and health officials are trying to fix the problem, she is disappointed that the new restrictions are hitting right as the holiday season gets under way.

A map from the New York State website shows portions of Erie County meeting metrics to be designated as yellow and orange zone COVID micro-clusters.
Credit https://forward.ny.gov/ / New York State

“It’s very disappointing. This is our busiest time of year,” Bohlen said.

Bohlen’s staff are hoping they’ll be able to collect unemployment while the business is closed.

“We’re a little bit nervous about whether we’re going to get any extra money, because it’s not going to be what we normally make. And we haven’t heard anything,” she said.

While the salon’s doors are closed for in-person service, Bohlen intends to keep taking care of clients through online sales of products and curbside pick-up of hair coloring for use at home.

“I’m not going to make anyone walk around with gray roots if they want to touch them up themselves. If they go somewhere else [for a haircut] for the time being, I know they’ll be back.”

Bohlen is confident her customer base will return based on business and her client’s behavior in the past two days.

“We’ve been totally overwhelmed with the support,” Bohlen said. “Everyone’s buying products, they’re buying gift certificates and they’re just trying to make sure that we know they care.”

As for keeping the business viable until full reopening is possible, Bohlen said there’s enough money in reserve to pay rent for a couple of months.

“As long as it doesn’t go on superlong, we should be fine. We have a wonderful landlord who always takes care of us if we need anything. So we’re pretty confident we’re going to be just fine and we’ll be able to open back up. I feel like we’re one of the lucky ones that we’ll be fine. But I’m sure a lot of businesses won’t and it’s really sad.”