Having cut off access to barbers and cancelled standing appointments with hair stylists for months, COVID-19 had some folks “out here looking a mess” and vowing to “get right” at the first opportunity.

Salon owner Roger Collins says he’s optimistic about the future of his business, now that Sacramento County has given the go ahead for salons and barbershops to reopen.

“We feel a little bit better than we did. People still have to go to work. They’ll be back. We just have to hold on,” said Collins, who has operated his Kings & Queens Unisex Salon at 6968 65th Street since 1996. Prior to opening his own spot across from the Florin Mall/Town Centre, he worked at several other local shops.

“It’s been a journey,” Collins said of business since the pandemic hit in March, forcing closures of businesses like his.

“It’s dangerous. We understood that we had to close and follow the (health order), but it’s rough.”

Weeks of closures turned into months. Unable to take clients, but still required to pay business-related bills, Collins says he had to get creative. He started selling merchandise like t-shirts and hair care products that clients could use at home.

“You have to have more than one hustle,” Collins shared.

As the pandemic continued, rules kept changing and local business owners and consumers expressed confusion about what was in fact open and what protocols have to be followed. At one point, hair and nail salon operators started taking customers outside in order to stay afloat. Kings & Queens chose not to, but is now welcoming clients as they “normally” would.

For shop owners like Roger Collins of Kings and Queens Unisex Salon in South Sacramento, hand sanitizer is now as much a part of the experience as clippers and brushes. (Photos by Ray Johnson)

COVID-19 has created a new normal. The current County mandates for social distancing means Collins and his crew can only have three to four clients in the salon at once. Those working on clients’ hair wear face masks and unless the service they’re getting precludes it, most customers are expected to have face coverings as well. They ask that clients come alone and don’t bring small children with them when they come to get their hair done. There are no magazines in the waiting area because they encourage people to stick around longer than absolutely necessary and increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure. There are no televisions with the game on or popular Black TV shows either. You’re more likely to see Mr. Clean or the Pine Sol lady than Lebron James or Martin Lawrence.

Collins says clients are slowly, but steadily returning as they learn more about what’s allowed to be open and they know that he’s following the law and taking measures to keep everyone safe.

Restrictions, however, do mean less revenue.

“Just because we’re open, that doesn’t mean we’re back to 100 percent,” Collins shared.

He says the salon is bringing in 25 percent of the income he was making prior to COVID-19.

“There were some months that we couldn’t do anything,” he said.

Collins is grateful for a COVID-19 assistance grant from the Florin Road Partnership and support from the Black Small Business Association of California, whose founder Salena Pryor is a customer, and others.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “The community came together and we’re getting by.”

Collins considers himself one of the lucky ones, as many minority entrepreneurs have had to shut down their businesses permanently. COVID-19, he says, has taught him some valuable lessons.

“Save money. Be more frugal. Be on a budget,” he shared. “You never know one day to the next what’s going on.”

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer