Hairstylists and Salons struggle during mandatory closures

By Katie Borgfjord

Hanging up the clippers for the second time in a year is proving difficult for salons and their owners. Spencer Toews, owner of Spencer Toews Barber Co. in Steinbach, said he went from serving 100 clients in a week to waiting around for his fiancée to come home from work.

“It’s definitely been tough,” said Toews. “Without the government money coming in, we wouldn’t make it, that’s a fact.” 

The critical level (red) restrictions in Manitoba forced salons and other nonessential businesses to close on Nov. 12. Toews said he’s struggling financially and mentally because he can’t work, but said that he agrees with the restrictions.

“My work is impossible to distance. I have to touch someone’s head to get paid,” he said. 

Most of Toews’ clients are bearded men, but he said he can’t justify trimming someone’s beard at the risk of being breathed on. 

“You can’t pay me enough to put myself at risk like that,” he said. “I would rather be broke than dead.”

Praise Okwumabua, owner of Freshair Boutique Winnipeg./FRESHAIR

Praise Okwumabua, owner of Freshair Boutique, said she has mixed feelings about the restrictions.

“The government helped with a bunch of loans, but the worry is, during this second round, can I afford more loan debt?” Okwumabua said.

In November, the provincial government introduced a one-time $5,000 Manitoba Bridge Grant for small businesses forced to close due to pandemic restrictions. Salons like Toews’ and Okwumabua’s can apply for several federal and provincial funding options.

Okwumabua said she lost seven weeks of revenue during the first lockdown and expects to lose at least four weeks this time.

She said she understands the need to control socializing, but does not understand why some businesses get to stay open while others are forced to close.

“It makes you feel like there really is no one looking out for you,” she said.

Manitoba will continue in a critical (red) response level until Dec. 11 at the earliest.