Norman Holley, who works at Mahir’s Unisex Barbershop with owner Mahir Abdul-Hakim, is pleased to be back cutting hair in the South End of Montclair.

by Andrew Garda

Customers were overjoyed to see Mahir Abdul-Hakim and Norman Holley back at their baber chairs, scissors in hand,  at Mahir’s Unisex Barbershop on Orange Road in Montclair’s South End last week. 

After closing them on March 21, Gov. Phil Murphy reopened hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, massage establishments and electrology offices, as well as spas, tattoo parlors and tanning salons, on June 22.

The shop, which Abdul-Hakim likes to say has been around “a long time,” has had a steady stream of clients return for more than just your typical trim, since most hadn’t seen a pair of scissors for three months.

“I started Tuesday (June 23) at 7:30 a.m. and I’ve been busy ever since then,” Holley said. “I have not had one break all week long and I won’t have one, because I’m busy for the rest of the day. And I’m all booked up.”

Customers and staff are screened prior to scheduled-only  appointments. Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in the last 72 hours, or having had exposure to an individual suspected of having had or confirmed to have had COVID-19 in the last 14 days, would not be seen. 

As mandated by the state, the barbershop only takes appointments, and it spaces customers out every half-hour, with one client at each chair, which are spaced more than six feet apart. The next customer cannot come in no more than 10 minutes early, and Abdul-Hakim and Holley thoroughly clean their chairs between each session.

Both men take it very seriously, and while every other chair remains empty to ensure safe social distancing, Holley said he moved his chair a little farther away.

It’s important, he said, to make sure customers feel comfortable coming in. Both the barbers and their clients wear masks, and Holley and Abdul-Hakim wear gloves as well, and have hand sanitizer for clients who don’t wear gloves.

The only thing which barbers are not allowed to do for their clients is care for their client’s beard. No trimming or shaving is allowed, as clients must wear masks at all times, which makes it impossible for a barber to do anything to a beard. 

Salons, beauty parlors and barbers are not supposed to blow dry hair either, and are not offering shampoos.

While Holley was able to handle time off financially, he knows a lot of others were not so lucky and struggled. Even though he didn’t have as hard a time as some others, though, he is happy to be back in the shop.

“There’s no catching up or making up for three months,” he said. “So, you just pretty much go forward … and try to continue to follow the state guidelines so we can remain open and not shut down for another three months. Everybody does their part, and I think we should all be fine. Hopefully, they’ll find a vaccine soon.”

The sign in front of Bangz Salon & Wellness Spa lets customers know what protections are in place to make sure everybody is healthy and observes social distancing.

Full service 

Bangz Salon & Wellness Spa got going on Tuesday, June 23, although they could have begun the previous day. Bangz is normally closed on Mondays, but Dominick Sansevero — who owns Bangz with Richard Cronk — said they wanted to use the extra day to get organized and book appointments for long-overdue colorings, haircuts and facials.

Another thing they had to consider is capacity. 

“We have fixed chairs,” Sansevero said. “With the social distance thing we’re limited. We have 36 chairs, and we’re condensing everything to 22 right now.”

That limits customers, but it also limits the staff as well, so Sansevero and Cronk have done things like try to extend hours, and assign split shifts during the lengthened hours.

Using every other chair is only one of the challenges the Bangz staff faces and with all the services they offer, it makes for a lot of balls in the air at once. 

Luckily, Sansevero points out that some elements lend themselves to the new “normal.”

“The spa is separate, even though it’s under our roof,” he said. “So, the clients are able to go into the separate entrance to our elevator. And they’re able to social distance down there as well, because it’s separate, which is nice.”

A cleaning service comes in every night for a thorough scouring, and the staff sanitizes stations during the day in between clients.

Sansevero said both customers and staff need to have a lot of patience and do what they are required to do.

“We wear our face masks and shields, we sanitize,” he said. “If everybody does what they have to do, and not just in my business, but throughout the world, hopefully this will subside and we can get back to some type of normalcy.”

A discussion in the Facebook group “Secret Montclair” recently touched on salons charging what was termed a “COVID Fee” or in some cases, an increased coloring fee. 

According to Stacey Bender, a “Creative Design Colorist/Educational Director” at Bangz, the salon had indeed raised prices by $5. She said the business had “made many precautions for everyone’s safety.”

What to expect:

  • • Screening/temperature-taking of clients prior to entry to the facility; 
  • • Use of personal protective equipment by clients and staff; 
  • • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices; 
  • • Six feet between each station; and 
  • Extra fees