'We all want to get back to our routine’

Monroe. As the pandemic continues, people are still finding ways to adjust and make do.

16 Apr 2020 | 01:20

You’ve seen the meme: Actor Jim Carey and his “Dumb and Dumber” hairstyle with an admonishment: “Do not cut your bangs.”

A little laughter helps during this COVID-19 “quarantine” and memes provide an outlet to do just that.

Still, when people quickly realized hair salons and barber shops don’t fall in the category of essential businesses, another stressor was added to quarantined life: What to do about haircuts and coloring?

These important self-esteem and grooming habits were now on hold.

“We’re like therapists, we’re not just hairdressers,” said Lorraine Giganti, a hair stylist at Fantastic Cuts in Monroe. “It’s also a social thing for many people, especially the seniors.”

Like others in this business sectors, hair stylists are out of work.

“It’s impacted us greatly because we’re on a commission basis,” she said. “When you’re not there, you don’t get paid. Right from the first day out, you’re out of money. We’ll all go back when they (salons) reopen. I applied for unemployment right away, because if you waited for another week you had a hard time getting (online.)”

This time of year is busy for hair stylists, and Giganti isn’t sure if she’ll recoup those lost appointments.

“Communions, confirmations, proms, graduations, they’re pretty much done for this year,” said Giganti, who’s worked at Fantastic Cuts for 12 years and as a hair stylist for 39 years. “Whenever we do go back, I can’t see how we’re going to be that busy with all these cancellations. It’s going be one of two things. We’re going to get crazy busy or people will be afraid to go out. Are we going back to the norm, or are we not?”

For those feeling the pain of long hair or greying roots, Giganti offered some tips.

“The first thing I’ve always said if people want to cut their hair, particularly their bangs, don’t cut too much,” she said. “A little is a lot. For women with longer hair, putting it up is an option or finding new ways to do their hair, for them, it’s a little easier.

“For those with shorter hair that has to be groomed it’s a challenge,” Giganti added. “That’s why we have moose and hair spray. Styling it the best you can with product, even if you don’t use product, you might find that helpful at this point.”

For men, Giganti cautioned it’s more challenging to have someone take a scissor or trimmer to clean up the ear/neckline.

“Necklines are more difficult,” she said. “Having someone trim around your ears isn’t so bad. But you do need someone to help with both, and who has a steady hand. I, myself, might be a bit adventurous and have someone help with a trim. But I’ve seen some disasters with that, too.”

And, for color?

“If they really can’t wait, and they have to buy a ‘box’ color, go one shade lighter than their natural color because if they don’t, it gets way too dark,” Giganti advised. “Or, just use a color stick for the roots that washes out every day. I would play it safe. But, it depends on how brave and adventurous people want to be.”

Like others, she’s looking forward to a safe economic reactivation.

“You’re in such a routine, then suddenly it goes to nothing,” Giganti said. “We all want to get back to our routine.”

Paying for food or preschool?

Gov. Cuomo’s executive order requiring the availability of childcare options for health care workers, first responders and essential workers helps places like Little Pals Preschool in Harriman ... just a tiny bit.

The private Christian preschool is otherwise closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. From a preschool student enrollment of about 100, the school is now down to only 14 who are attending.

Prior to the governor’s closure order, the preschool was open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with New York State licensed daycare hours of 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.

“We’ve lost as much as 40 percent of our revenue,” said owner/director Angela Nardo, whose two daughters also work in the school as head teachers. “Some sent tuition for April, some parents are paying tuition to hold spots. There’s not that many, but we have some who are nice and want to support us. We know they’re having financial difficulties. If you have to make the choice of putting food on the table or paying for a preschool spot, I want them to put food on their table.”

She added: “When you register your child, you’re making a 10-month commitment. You pay tuition whether it’s holidays, snow days, vacation days. Then this happened. I told my families tuition is expected, but I also told them I know they had to do what’s right for their families. Some families told me they both lost jobs and have to pull out because they can’t afford to pay tuition. I told them their child will not lose their spot at Little Pals.”

Childcare for kids who don’t normally attend Little Pals is in a separate area, to give everyone an additional layer of reassurance against any remote second or third-hand exposure to the virus from front line workers.

“Our arrival and dismissal procedures are changed for everyone,” Nardo stressed. “Parents pull up, the staff get the children, we take their temperature and escort them into the building where everyone thoroughly washes hands. No one, other than the staff, is allowed in the building. I’m losing money on what I’m charging. I’m doing this to help everyone out.”

To help offset financial losses, Nardo applied for Small Business Association loans touted by the federal government.

“I applied for the disaster relief grant and payroll protection program through the SBA,” she said “I haven’t heard anything yet but I’m praying. Not that it was easy, there was a lot of documentation you had to prepare. I applied on line through my bank, it wasn’t that difficult.”

Despite the financial stresses, Nardo and her staff are committed to giving the children an enriching experience following all public health and safety protocols.

“I’m doing my very best to keep Little Pals open and there for you when you need our services, when this extraordinary time is over,” she added. “I’m praying for my families every day. The little ones here think it’s a normal day. But, everything is up in the air. It’s all dependent on if they open the schools in May. I’m praying to God that we will survive. I’ve been building this business for 15 years. When you own a preschool/day care, you don’t do it for the money. We love children, it’s that simple. This is hard on us.”

‘They’re all ‘PPE’d’ up.’

The bar at Tequila Grille in Monroe is empty, but that hasn’t stopped regular customers from ordering pitchers of margaritas for takeout.

“It was March 16 at 8 p.m. when we the orders came down there was no more indoor service at restaurants,” said owner/manager Rob McHugh. “This was the ‘NY on Pause’ bill. You could serve curbside, takeout and delivery. The caveat was you could also serve booze to go, which wasn’t allowed to before. We’ve made pitchers of margaritas to go. Some of regulars, who miss their margaritas, were happy. It’s cups and plastic containers. It’s not like sitting at the bar, but they were happy.”

Takeout service helps, but business is still down about 90 percent, according to McHugh.

“When you come here, you want to sit at the bar,” he said. “The takeout was always just one-tenth of the business. and I was never a takeout place. That hasn’t changed.”

McHugh recalled the week of March 23, when on that Monday he was deciding what he should do.

“I’m looking at the phone and I see 42 missed calls,” he said. “I thought about shutting down but I’m seeing these missed calls. I wasn’t sure. What are we going to do now? The phone is still ringing off the hook. For my customers, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Now, McHugh’s offering a limited menu and is open only Thursdays through Sundays.

“There was a lot of tossing and turning over that,” he said. “The chef and I decided to go with just a basic menu so there’s no waste. We post that on our Facebook and Instagram.”

The response has been great.

“It’s nice to see their faces even through they’re hidden behind the masks,” McHugh said. “They’re all ‘PPE’d’ up. Then, I see their names on the credit cards. They’re overly generous on tips for our staff. I appreciate seeing that.”

However, most of the staff have applied for unemployment.

“If you’re only doing 10 percent of the sales, how much of the staff can stay on?” he said. “I have college kids with student loans and they’re most of my servers. Right now, it’s not about turning a profit, it’s just enough to try to sustain. But it won’t be unsustainable shortly.”

Still, McHugh doesn’t know how business will be once New York State reopens.

“This is just an opinion going forward,” he said. “If you’re going to keep a social distance, when you sit at a bar, you’re only three feet away from the next person, if that much. Will I have half the capacity? I’m trying to think it through. If you cut things in half, what will that do to my sales? I didn’t hear my rent or my sales tax will be cut in half.”

But McHugh was adamant of one thing.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m whining,” he said. “I’m not the only one dealing with this. Most people around me are healthy, and that comes first. I’m healthy. This is fine. What are you going to do with money if you’re not healthy? This stuff will work itself out. There no crying in this business. A huge, huge thank you goes out to everyone.”