Trumbull hairstylists reopen, happy to be back

TRUMBULL — “Hold still,” Johnna Dineley tells a visitor to the JoDavi Salon as she takes aim with a handheld scanning thermometer. Satisfied with the results, she adds, “Sorry, it’s part of our new policy. That’s just the way it has to be.”

Shortly before noon on Monday, the first day salons were allowed to reopen in Connecticut, the salon is busy. Hairstylists bustle around as the salon starts catching up on a 10-week backlog because of the coronavirus-forced closing.

But regulars will notice some differences as the salon, and hundreds of others around the state, adhere to strict protocols to prevent a rebound in virus infections. For starters, the 3,000-square foot salon is operating at half-capacity with every other chair left empty. The coffee and tea bar is gone, and the lounge areas where clients could relax on couches before or after their appointments are taped off.

“Even with all that, it’s just great to be able to be open again,” Dineley said.

Dineley estimated she spent about $5,000 making changes to comply with the current health protocols. That includes installing plastic barriers at the front desk and reconfiguring the layout to create more space between clients. Also, the cost of being open has risen with the cost of personal protective equipment and sanitizer added to the salon’s overhead.

“But after two months of no income, we’re happy to be open,” she said.

Like other salon owners, Dineley said Gov. Ned Lamont’s backtrack on reopening hairstylists and salons had put the industry in a bind. After initially stating salons would be allowed to reopen May 20, Lamont changed his mind May 18 after hearing complaints from salon owners who said they could not safely reopen.

Dineley attributed the about-face to a small group of disproportionally vocal salon owners.

“He didn’t hear from me,” Dineley said. “I was too busy running around getting everything ready to reopen.”

The delayed reopening was devastating, she said.

“We had made all the changes, bought all the supplies, and extended our hours, then to have to tell everyone that we couldn’t open,” she said.

The staff also bore the brunt of the reconsideration, she said.

“They had come off unemployment because they wanted to come back to work, and then it’s another two weeks before they can come back,” Dineley said.