Hair professionals flooded with clients

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Mike’s Barber Shop Owner Mike Cravener shaves Mike Berger of Jasper at the barbershop in Jasper on Tuesday. Cravener reopened for appointment only on May 11 after 46 days of closure.


JASPER — What did Mike Cravener think when he heard his barbershop would be shut down?

You can’t print that in a newspaper.

Jenna Faulkenberg wept with the staff at Southern Roots Salon before her business preemptively shuttered. Brooke Knies remembered feeling scared and nervous when The Beauty Bar Jasper locked up for an indefinite pause.

Hair professionals braced for an uncertain future when Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March. Now, they’re trimming and styling a swarm of much-appreciated customers — while also working tirelessly to disinfect their facilities and keep their safe spaces clean.

“People are being awesome,” Faulkenberg said. “They’re coming to a locally-owned, operated-, ran-company. They are showing us love, and keeping us alive.”

Cravener is the owner of Mike’s Barber Shop, which sits just off the Courthouse Square in Jasper. His closure lasted 46 days — that number still fresh in his mind — and he was both shocked and deflated at its onset.

New guidelines in place at Mike’s Barber Shop are seen through the window in Jasper on Tuesday.

Financially, Cravener was prepared for an extended leave of absence. He spent it with his wife, Theresa. They did fun things, like going fishing, but also dedicated time to sprucing up Mike’s shop, and even built a cedar bench for clients to sit on outdoors while they wait.

The money was good. It was the timing that stung.

Cravener took over his storied storefront from renowned local barber Leo Wahl in August, and business had picked up significantly in February and early March. Then it came to a screeching halt.

Falkenberg was terrified when her doors closed; Southern Roots Salon took a proactive approach and shut down ahead of the mandated closure. She said that while stepping away from the chairs was important to protect against the spread of COVID-19, it was still a painful decision.

“Financially, we’re a customer service industry,” Faulkenberg explained. “So it was very scary, as far as feeling the financial impact of it.”

She still had to pay rent. Still had to pay utilities. Still had to foot the bills that would ensure Southern Roots could reboot when it was given the OK. She had lived her dream since opening the salon in April 2018. Could the pandemic shatter it?

Knies feared for her stylists. The owner of The Beauty Bar Jasper, she knew their road ahead was murky. But she didn’t expect the shutdown to last seven weeks.

She wondered: How exactly would reopening work? How would the environment need to change at the salon at that time? The others were anxious, too — ready to get back but unsure of what that would look like.

And then, on May 11, local hair experts returned to their posts.

Mike's Barber Shop Owner Mike Cravener gives Mike Berger of Jasper a haircut at the barbershop in Jasper on Tuesday.

Each establishment interviewed for this story is each operating a little differently. They are all, however, prioritizing safety precautions that include extensive and thorough disinfecting between appointments, social distancing, limiting the number of clients inside their buildings at one time and wearing masks.

They’re also all completely swamped.

Cravener’s busiest week ever previously took place in March. His first week back shattered that record.

Many of the 17 stylists at The Beauty Bar Jasper are booked through the end of the week. Others don’t have openings for even longer.

“Most of us stylists are working 10-plus-hour days,” Knies said. “And we just can’t get everyone in. But we are trying our best, and we’re trying to accommodate everyone. And it’s honestly been running a lot smoother than what I expected.”

Faulkenberg’s head is spinning. Her staff is also working long shifts and calls just keep coming.

Each owner mentioned in this story recognizes that barbershops and hair salons are more than just a place to get a haircut. They foster communities. Comfortable atmospheres where clients can let down their guards and open up about intimate details of their lives to the man or woman holding the scissors.

Local hair gurus have missed that. And while they still miss the lively environment the once-packed spaces seemed to often provide, they’re enjoying more personal conversations with clients — both new and old — in their noticeably emptier workplaces.

“I have guys that are coming in that I’ve never seen before,” Cravener said. “So, it’s kind of nice that you’re building a connection with them without other people around.”

He continued: “But, in the same sense, you kind of miss that, couple guys you know over here, waiting, that are having a good time at the barbershop.”

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