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Re-Open Series: Lisa De Simone of Soma Salon

It feels safe to say that the salon and spa industry was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 shutdowns. Maybe that’s because we’re so close to it. But I don’t think so. We have only to look to our fellow professionals out in California to see how challenging it has been.

Re-opening was great, but it was only the beginning of a new journey with fresh challenges to face and obstacles to overcome.

Yet we persist. YOU persist.

To celebrate the resilience of this industry – this community – I reached out to a handful of salon and spa owners to talk about the past months. Learn what hit hardest. How they overcame adversity. What they’re doing to chase success and growth in the face of new guidelines and restrictions.

I hope you find value here. I hope you find a reminder that we’re in this together. You are not on this journey alone. Just as others are finding a way, YOU will find a way. Don’t give up.

Lisa De Simone, co-owner of Soma Salon and Spa

Lisa De Simone is the co-owner of Soma Salon and Spa of Somerville, Massachusetts. Established in 2014, they’ve been named Wicked Local’s Reader’s Choice for Best Hair Salon and Spa for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Like many of us in the industry, the initial shutdown was shocking, but the full implications weren’t felt until later.

What were your initial reactions to the closures?

We thought we’d be closed for two weeks. We didn’t understand the full picture. Until we started seeing the extensions, then you’re watching the news every single day. Then it really started to sink in. It was very shocking. Almost numbing. We had never been through this before.”

How were you able to make it through the closures?

We felt okay in the beginning. We always ran the business conservatively, and our business was successful in general, for which I am grateful. So we felt like ‘okay, we can get through this.’ Our main concern was with our employees, and making sure they were okay financially. Our goal was always get everyone their job back and get going as soon as we could re-open.

As the months went by, we settled in a little more. The PPP loans and the assistance the government put out was definitely helpful to secure everyone’s job over the long term including rent and other expenses to operate.

Did you ever think “we’ll never open again”?

It was scary. We were teetering at the end. The timing of the re-open was crucial. If we were closed any longer, with the rent and everything piling up, I’m not sure where we would have stood. From one owner to another, I really sympathize with those businesses in states like California. I can’t even imagine.

Since re-opening, what has been the greatest challenge?

At first it was getting employees back to work. We felt like we needed to do the right thing and bring them back. We had conversations with them about the financial burdens, that we didn’t know if the business would be the same. In the end we were grateful that we had a healthy and willing staff return to work.

The second biggest challenge were the guidelines. You couldn’t pack the house like you used to. And you lost the retail side. No one could come in to shop for product. So you have to change the schedules, keep everyone six feet apart. You couldn’t run at full capacity, and you still can’t. So it’s an ongoing challenge.

Lastly, the business coming in has changed. Every location is different in this, but with people working remote, your regular clientele who came out of convenience because we were close to where they worked no longer come in. You get some new clients, yes, but you lose some old clients. That’s a chunk of the business.

Safety is the priority at Soma, with masks worn all around. It doesn’t stop the fun!

How about making clients feel safe?

It was a challenge when we first opened. Fortunately, we have a great system in place. We take it seriously. We take temperatures at the door, everyone wears a mask, we’re on top of the sanitizing. The clients see that, they take notice, and we’ve gotten a lot of great reviews mentioning that they are aware of everything we have in place to keep them safe. That has helped a lot.

We’ve also invested in marketing, putting signs around, making PPEs available to everyone. That was huge. So people came in, they felt comfortable, they continue to come back. That’s a positive for us.

At first it sounded like a lot, but we could see how important it was, and how it affects the decisions of the clients coming in and coming back. So we’re on top of it.

In what ways have you adapted after re-opening to contribute to your salon’s survival and/or success?

Incorporating the Contactless payment through SalonTarget has helped. It makes clients feel more comfortable to check out on the phone, have a receipt emailed or texted. Also texting direct through the software to clients before they walk through the door for their appointment. It works for us and the client and it’s so much easier to communicate with them through the software. If we didn’t have that it would be harder to call them, keep track of them. Text is quick, simple, and easy.

We did downsize the retail section to add more hair stations and maintain the spacing. That helped to get more people in. Other than that, for the salon itself we haven’t done too much to be honest. The main thing that has changed has been the guidelines. We do what we can do within those and do the best we can.

In your opinion, where does the industry go from here? How does a salon or spa GROW and SUCCEED post-COVID?

As much as the world has slowed down, this industry is a priority for a lot of people. I think that it’s still an important industry and an essential service for a lot of people. People want to get their hair and spa services. For mental health, to feel good to look good.

No matter what’s going on, that’s not something  the public would do away with. This industry is about well being, making a person feel good. That will always be a positive. As long as people are wanting to feel good and look good, they will seek out our services.

I try to be a positive person. I try to be an optimist. This too shall pass. I believe in that. This isn’t going to be forever.

I do believe that we are moving forward, as much as people think it’s getting worse, I think things are moving along and things will get better. Even if it is a year from now, six months, I believe things will be back, if not better. I have this feeling that once people feel safer they will go back to the way things were. They will get out shop, go to events, and the world will get back to its businesses.

To learn more about Lisa and Soma Salon, visit them on the web or go follow them on Instagram.

To learn how SalonTarget’s Re-Open Ready Features like Contactless Payment and Texting from the Queue can help your business thrive, get in touch with us and start a FREE 14-day trial today.

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