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Nail industry seeks answers as others reopen
nail salons
Inspirations Salon owners John Temple and Janene Temple have been making safety improvements to their downtown nail salon in hopes they can reopen soon (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Gyms, bars and movie theaters were just some of the businesses that received the go-ahead from Stanislaus County officials to reopen with precautions this week, but noticeably absent from the statewide plan are nail salons — and the industry is frustrated.

While salons throughout Turlock are slowly welcoming back clients since receiving approval to open themselves two weeks ago, nail technicians are left wondering why their profession has been left hanging during the coronavirus pandemic with no end to their personal shutdown in sight.

At local gyms like In Shape, members are being asked to sign waivers before working out at the facility. While Regal Cinemas hasn’t announced an opening date yet, downtown Turlock’s bars have been packed with patrons nightly even before they were allowed to open.

On Friday, the county got new guidelines from the state on re-opening businesses like nail salons, tattoo parlor and spas.

In Stanislaus County’s “Good 2 Go” reopening plan, nail salons are listed as “future sectors” to be opened. Sectors listed as a future sector may not open at this time; however, information is provided for those businesses to consider when allowed to open.

Denair resident Jill Hart is the assistant manager at Swoon Salon and Spa in downtown Turlock, where she’s been doing nails for the past five years. For the first time in her 18-year career, the single mother of three is unemployed and collecting paychecks from the Employment Development Department while working an additional part-time job to make ends meet.

“I hope it ends soon. I want to work,” Hart said. “I think if we had a date that we could reopen it would feel like a light at the end of the tunnel...never in a million years did I think I would be in this position.”

Hart’s cries are echoed by the 600,000 nail technicians throughout the state who are also still out of work. The Professional Beauty Federation of California and Advance Beauty College have both filed lawsuits against the state that are designed to get people back to work, spurred by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statement last month that California’s first case of COVID-19 came from a nail salon.

While government officials have since walked back the statement, Hart believes the damage has already been done.

“That was a pretty unfair accusation because we are trained in proper cleaning techniques and sanitization,” she said, adding that while some clients may not return because they’re used to not having their nails done, others could hold back from setting appointments out of fear.

“In this type of work, the longer we’re out of work we risk losing clients. This isn’t just the type of work where you can go off for months and it’s not going to be the same when you come back.”

At Inspirations Salon, owner John Temple said he and his wife, Janene Temple, were excited when they first heard that salons and barbershops could reopen. While installing plexiglass barriers between shampoo bowls and other close-proximity quarters, they also began preparing barriers to keep their nail technicians — Janene included — safe. Soon, however, they found out it wouldn’t be necessary as nail services were not yet permitted to operate.

“To me, nails should've been the first thing that came back in reality, because it's the least amount of contact. That’s just me looking at it from my perspective,” John Temple said. “What’s a little concerning for all of us that own salons is really the lack of info we’ve been getting and lack of timeline from the state.”

In addition to the six nail technicians who work at Inspirations, the salon also has three pedicure chairs that have been out of commission, an esthetician and massage therapists. Combined, the services make up a decent chunk of the salon’s income.

The governor’s press secretary Jesse Melgar said in a statement on Tuesday that Newsom’s office continues to talk with industry stakeholders about reopening nail salons with “a focus on public health and safety.”

“We want to do the right thing. Just give us some information,” John Temple said.

While Hart misses earning her own income at Swoon, the money is just the half of it.

“I call them clients but they’re my friends. People have relationships with each other at the salon. I’m a big part of their life and they’re a big part of mine. It’s a relationship, and I miss that, too,” Hart said. “There are always ways to make money, which I’ve realized being off the last three months, but our clients are our bread and butter. I love them and appreciate them. They've become friends of mine and if anything, I’m anxious to get back to my friends.”