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Even after opening, pandemic continues to put pressure on hairdressers

‘You're never not stressed out at the end of the day, whether we're open or closed,’ says local hair stylist Holly Fuhr
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Holly Fuhr owns Kitchener hair salon Shear Amazement.

From fixing botched at-home haircuts to the back-to-school rush, business is finally booming again for hair stylists in the region after being closed for so long. 

One such hairstylist is Holly Fuhr, who owns and operates her own salon, Shear Amazement, out of her house in Kitchener. 

Fuhr worked for other salons for around eight years before opening up her own. 

“The only reason I started running my own was because I had children, and it just made more sense at the end of the day,” Fuhr said. 

Running her own salon out of her house allowed her to create her own hours, and she was able to work from and make more money while working fewer hours. 

This move proved to be a successful one, and she’s been busy with clients since opening four and a half years ago.  

That is, until the pandemic forced her to close for nine months.

The series of lockdowns and public health mandates that required her to keep her doors shut resulted in a massive income loss, and has left her continually stressed. 

“I have a lot of backup that I have to catch up on, and I always feel like I have to work more hours than I normally would just in case we get locked down again,” she said. “So it's like, you're never not stressed out at the end of the day, whether we're open or closed.”

Fuhr’s partner is an essential worker, who has been working throughout the pandemic. But she says her income loss has caused them to struggle. 

“We hurt a lot without me working. His income isn’t enough to pay all of our bills at the end of the day,” she said. 

Even with government subsidies like CERB and the small business grants, she’s made less than 50 per cent of what she usually makes each year. Yet she’s remained closed out of concern for safety and keeping her business license. 

“If I don’t adhere to public health rules and regulations, I could lose my whole business, which isn't worth the risk,” she said. 

But not everyone feels the same. There has been a surge of underground hairdressers since salons have been closed for so long, which Fuhr says left a number of her clients asking her whether she was willing to operate during lockdowns, or if she could find someone else to do their hair. 

“It always makes me stressed out as to whether I'll have a business when I come back to it or not, because I can't control people getting their hair done underground,” she said. 

Fortunately, business has been busy since reopening on July 16.

“Most of my clients have been amazingly loyal,” she said, adding that she’s currently still catching up on appointments that were postponed during the last three month lockdown, along with an influx of appointments from the back-to-school rush. 

“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” she said. “When I’m closed, I worry. But when I’m open, I’m like, why was I worried about people not being here?” 

However, the pandemic is still putting a great deal of stress on her business.

To compensate for the nine month profit loss and fear of being closed down again, she’s been working constant overtime. 

“I feel like I can’t say no when someone asks me to do their hair, because next week, I could be told I’m shutting down,” she said. “So I feel like I have to accept as much work as I can right now, in case we do get shut down again, so I have enough money to survive another lockdown.”

As the fourth wave looms, threatening another potential lockdown, Fuhr says hairdressers just want to be treated like every other job. 

“If we could just be one on one, a little bit of work is better than no work,” she said.

If they are forced to close again in the event of another lockdown, Fuhr urges clients to remain loyal to their hairdressers. 

“They really, really need to count on you right now,” she said. 

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