haircut toronto

People in Toronto are turning to the black market in order to get a haircut

On a typical day during lockdown, Lysa Fina walks down to her Toronto hair salon, sits down at the desk and stares out the window.

"I wave to people that walk by on the street, I clean a little bit, I do a bit of inventory, I am here if the phone rings, and I answer emails if people want to get on the waiting list," Fina, who has owned Grateful Head for nearly 15 years, told blogTO. "Being here every day, keeps me hopeful and doesn’t make me feel like I am closed right now."

Hair salons and barbers across Toronto shut down on Nov. 23 and as the weeks stretch into months people desperately want a haircut.

While Fina hears from other salon owners that they are doubtful the lockdown will end anytime soon, she feels positive there will be an announcement soon.

"I feel super hopeful," she said. "I feel like we are going to be open by the end of February."

She does, however, feel discouraged at times, especially when she sees big box stores continuing to operate while small businesses remain closed.

"From my point of view, this lockdown feels like a takedown," Fina said. "It's sad, this is hurting small businesses in a way that many, many will not recover."

The hair salon and barber shop industry is also taking a big hit as many people are getting haircuts underground.

"I have been offered up to $500 to do a haircut at home," Fina said. She won't do it because she would risk losing her license.

However, many stylists are doing it, according to Glassbox Barbershop owner Peter Gosling.

"It is a black market industry at this point," Gosling told blogTO.

Many stylists and barbers are going to people's homes. Gosling said it is referred to as "kitchen culture" now because so many people are getting haircuts in their kitchens.

"People are just desperate for personal services, people are desperate to look good, people are desperate to have any sense of normality in their lives," he said.

But the underground haircuts will devastate the industry as stylists become used to making more money striking out on their own.

"This is a major problem for us because now I have to fight to get my employees back to work at their commission rate," he said.

It is unfortunate because salons can control client social distancing and do proper disinfection.

"There's been hardly any contact tracing to the salon or barbershop community at all and that's because we were separating people two metres apart, everyone had to wear a mask, everyone had to sanitize before they came in, we were taking temperatures," he said.

Dentists and other healthcare offices can remain open while hair salons and barbers are trained in health protocols. Gosling keeps a very clean shop.

"I am very proud to say you can eat off the floor in my business."

While Gosling has been lucky as he has been approved for government programs and is running a barber education program, he worries for the future for local businesses.

"There will be nothing to return to," he said.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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