Salon And Barbershop Owners Look Forward To Seeing Customers Again, Even If From Behind A Mask< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Everyone who steps into Smart Barber Shop receives a hearty hello from owner Dave Smart, whose grin shines right through his face mask.
Last Friday, Smart reopened his shop on West Washington Street in Athens. It was closed for about two months under orders from the state of Ohio to slow the spread of COVID-19. Smart founded the barbershop around 20 years ago and serves men, women, and children in the Athens area. His wife, Diane, also cuts hair at the shop.
Smart has known many of his customers for years. In the 50 years he has worked in Athens, he’s seen children grow into adults, and then start families of their own. He said he is very glad to see the people who he has been taking care of for years.
“I thought about all my clients all along,” he said.
The customers who came in between 10 a.m. and noon on Monday were wearing masks. Smart told them it was their decision to leave it on or take it off. After every haircut, Smart cleaned the barber chair and his tools, pulled out a clean cape for the next customer, and washed his hands.
Linda Barcus has been coming to see Smart for 47 years. She estimated it had been about three months since her last haircut. They told stories and talked about life in the pandemic as Smart trimmed her hair.
Barcus said she is planning to camp and boat with her family this weekend, and needed to take some length off so her hair would be more manageable.
“You don’t get to do much primping,” she said.
Barcus left with her short, dark hair freshly fluffed and styled.
“Tell your husband I said howdy,” Smart called after her.
Talking with clients is one of the things Smart said he missed most while he was closed. Smart does more than cut hair — he gets to know people’s lives, their personalities, their stories. He remembers their music preferences and changes the station based on who is in the chair. He jokes with them, prays with them, and asks about their families.
“People need to know they’re cared about,” he said. “We need each other.”
This is a sentiment shared by Smart’s longtime friend and former hair styling instructor, Fritz Bookman. He is the owner and operator of G.F. Bookman & Co. Attitudes, a salon on Nelsonville’s public square.
“You watch (clients) live their lives, and they watch you live yours,” Bookman said. “That’s the thing about this business, it’s very personal.”
Bookman started cutting hair in Nelsonville in 1963, and Attitudes has been open almost 20 years. He attended the Vidal Sasson academy in London while studying hair styling techniques, and helped educate salon groups in 33 U.S. states. He said he has seen a lot, and experienced a lot, in his life — but nothing like this pandemic.
“When you think you’ve seen it all, then you’re faced with this,” he said.
Bookman said his employees were fortunate to receive unemployment benefits from the state while the salon was closed. He said it is easier to keep 6 feet of distance between customers at a salon than it might be at a bar or restaurant. Still, he worries what might happen if there is a second wave of COVID-19 later this year or next year.
“I don’t think we could sustain shutting down a second time,” he said.
Bookman has asked every client to wear a protective face mask to protect himself and his employees, and to shampoo their hair before they arrive at the salon. Near the back of the salon is a sterilization table, where stylists clean their tools after every customer.
He said he and his employees are “erring on the extreme side” of caution, as there is no definite answer to when the spread of COVID-19 will stop in Athens County and the rest of the United States.
“My big question is, what is ‘normal’ going to look like?” he said. “And, will this last a long time?”