Carla Bumstead


Area residents have been “pulling out their hair” at an ever-increasing rate since COVID-19 forced the closure of hair salons. But lucky for those with locks, salons reopened across the state this past week. For all of those involved, both stylists and customers, the new way of doing things will take some getting used to.

Planning for safety

Michele Beebe (shown above), who works at Fahrenheit Tanning and Hair Salon in downtown Eaton Rapids, said that, if everyone involved is respectful and understanding, she believes she can safely return to her chosen career. Afterall, she doesn’t have much choice.

“It is my livelihood; I have to do it,” Beebe said. “I am a little worried about the potential for getting sick, as I think it is natural to feel worried when we are working with people so closely.”

But she and the salon where she works will have new procedures in place that should protect everyone.

“I started to get really worried about going back when I was just sitting at home thinking about it,” she said. “But when I took a step away from (the worry) and took a close look at how to safely prepare and organize, I realized I can definitely have an effective plan.”

Some of the new systems being put in place include frequent and thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all work areas, using hand sanitizers, having people wait in their cars rather than in a waiting room and, most definitely, wearing a face mask.

Need for patience

Carli Silvas, a stylist at Missy’s Shop of Style in downtown Charlotte, echoed Beebe’s sentiments as far as the non-socially-distant nature of her profession and the challenges that presents.

“We were very apprehensive at first because there were so many unknowns,” Silvas said.

She said it was difficult not knowing what COVID-19 and the mandated closure would mean for her livelihood.

“With our work being so close in contact with people, and the inability to socially distance, we didn’t know what being closed would mean for our business,” Silvas said. “But I enjoyed the extra time spent at home with family and giving my body some much-needed rest.”

Silvas said there were concerns about going back for a number of reasons.

“There is some uncertainty as to how the new regulations will impact our business, how many clients we’ll be able to see, the increased costs associated with cleaning supplies, how our clients will react to the new regulations and how we’d be able to reschedule three months-worth of clients in as little time as possible,” she said. “But there was also a level of excitement at the opportunity to reconnect with clients we’re so used to seeing on a regular schedule.”

Silvas added she and the others she works with are greatly appreciative of their clients’ support during the down-time.

“We’ve appreciated everyone’s patience throughout the shutdown,” Silvas said. “We ask for continued patience as we work through scheduling in this new environment as well as some grace with the new guidelines, as they are out of our control but necessary to follow if we wish to keep our license.

“We are grateful to the many clients who reached out to check on us and offer their support.”

Super busy

With the governor’s announcement that salons could open on June 15, hair stylists’ phones have never been so busy.

Kelly Hulliberger, who has worked as a stylist for the past 10 years, said her phone has been “blowing up” with people calling to schedule appointments. And she has every intention of getting everyone in as soon as possible.

“We are definitely going to be very busy for a while,” said Hulliberger, who works at What’s Your Forte Salon in downtown Charlotte. “I’m planning on a 12-hour shift on Saturday, and we want to do everything we can to accommodate everyone.”

Beebe said her phone started “going crazy” as soon as it was announced that salons could reopen.

“We’ve been getting 40 to 50 messages a day from people that want haircuts, and we are doing our very best to get everyone in,” she said.

As is the case with Silvas, both Beebe and Hulliberger said their customers have been very understanding.

“We have some of the best clients in town, and I do expect that most of my previous clients will come back,” Hulliberger said. “All of us here at What’s Your Forte are very excited to get back to work; we missed everybody.”

In keeping with current guidelines, all of the salons will be taking numerous precautions to limit any potential for spread of the virus.

“We want to be sure that everyone is safe,” Hulliberger said. “Obviously, we are going to be dealing with high volumes of people needing to get their hair cut, and we will be taking a lot of extra precautions.”

New start

For Beebe, the changes necessitated by COVID-19 are coupled with another major change. On Monday, June 15, not only did she return to work as a stylist, she also started in a completely new place.

A resident of Vermontville, Beebe has been cutting hair for the past six years – the first two years as an apprentice and the past four as a licensed stylist. She got her start at It’s Your Hair in Eaton Rapids, where she credits owner Katy Cribley for giving her the opportunity to do what she loves.

“I had gotten to known Katy (Cribley) and became her receptionist, and being in that atmosphere I realized I really wanted to try to get into doing hair professionally. Katy gave me the opportunity to become her apprentice, and I am so appreciative of that.”

Beebe said she had been thinking of changing to a new salon prior to COVID-19’s arrival, and the extra time to think helped convince her it was time. She started her new “job” at Fahrenheit on Monday.

“This just felt like a good time to make the move,” she said. “I actually felt that this particular point in time, for every salon, is going to be a lot like starting up ‘anew,’ so it just felt like a good time for me to take the opportunity.”

Beebe is married with two children and cares for an elderly father with Alzheimer’s who has also been undergoing cancer treatments. Prior to COVID-19, she had reduced her hours to allow more time to care for her father. But with so many people needing salon services (after three months of closure) she simply has to return to full-time working hours.

Contact info:

Fahrenheit Tanning and Hair Salon is located at 145 S. Main St. in Eaton Rapids. What’s Your Forte Salon is located at 135 S Cochran Ave. in Charlotte. Appointments can be made online for both Fahrenheit and What’s Your Forte at Missy’s Shop of Style is located at 141 S. Cochran Ave., Suite B, in Charlotte, and the phone number is 517-543-4300.