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Ron King Salon
(Ron King Salon)

With the Austin barbershop he's been going to for more than 25 years shut down during the stay-at-home orders, Will Holford nearly waited too long to attend to the situation.

"My barber called me," Holford said. "He must have seen a pic I posted on FB and took pity on me."

Holford's appointment is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, nearly two months after his last hair cut, at Sportsman's Barbershop.

It also comes one day after barbershops and hair salons across Texas are allowed to open under new guidelines set out by the governor and aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus, while opening up more businesses after weeks of economic devastation.

(Ron King Salon)

Waiting impatiently beneath split ends and heavy bangs and scary home haircuts, clients seem to be parted right down the middle on whether they will be going back any time soon.

For every Holford with an appointment, there's a Laurie Felker Jones with an overdue cut and color—or a need to "paint the front of the house," as she jokingly refers to her visits—and no immediate plans to address it.

"My stylist and I have been talking, and we both want everyone to be safe," said Felker Jones, an Austin consultant and mother of two. "The risks just aren't worth it."

For some, the home haircut was a delightful surprise.

"My wife gave all three of us boys summer buzz cuts," said Austinite Arturo Aviles, father of twins. "Feels great!"

Salons are also divided, with some opening immediately while others wait until they deem it safe.

Friday morning was busy at the Ron King Salon near the Four Seasons hotel downtown, where up to 75 clients might cycle through on a typical Saturday.

King expects to see one-third of that, if his appointments fill up, as new capacity rules limit the number of both clients and stylists. So he'll now open seven days a week, instead of being closed Sunday, for 12 hours a day.

Clients wait in their cars and retail products are moved behind the counter. Stylists wear masks and gloves, and money exchange is all touchless—even stylists' tips will be sent through VenMo.

Otherwise, his strict sanitation practices are business as usual.

"This is what stylists are trained to do," King said. "We have to take a sanitation class over and over and over and over, each year … It's the safest place to be."

At Birds Barbershop's nine locations, owners consulted an infectious disease expert and are waiting until next week to open, said Laura Snyder, a shop manager on the East Side.

Employees will have face shields and daily temperature checks, the front desk gets a sneeze guard, and no beard trims or color treatments at first, said Snyder, a student at Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute, which opens later this month.

"I'm scared in general of this virus," she said, "but I'm really appreciative that the place I work vows to be the cleanest and safest place in Austin to get a haircut."


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