WESTFIELD, NJ — Anthony Foti is happy to be back.
After putting his hair cutting scissors aside for three months — the longest he had done so in his career — the 77-year-old barber was back in his element, cutting hair at the Towne Barber Shoppe on Elm Street Saturday.
“We were getting bored at home,” Foti said with a chuckle through his Denver Broncos face mask. “I was sitting on my deck getting sun tanned.”
He was among the hair stylists across New Jersey back to work this weekend after state orders allowed hair salons to reopen, following their closure for nearly 100 days due to COVID-19. The haircutters are adjusting to new regulations needed to help curtail the spread of coronavirus.
Inside the Towne Barber Shop, customers clad in masks came in to finally get rid of their quarantine manes. The barbershop, a mainstay of downtown Westfield since it opened in 1946, didn’t offer remote hair cutting sessions during the lockdown — clippers to the untrained hand could lead to unsightly hair, or worse, said Christine Fiorenza, 55, owner of the shop.
“I think it can be very dangerous,” she said. “People get clippers and it's not an easy thing to do.”
Carefully weaving his scissors to avoid snipping his customer’s face mask, Foti buzzed and snipped away at Ryan Moore’s sideburns, Moore’s first time back at the barber since he came back from college.
How’d the barber do?
“I think it looks good,” Moore said approvingly.
On the other side of downtown at DanTee Hair Architects, shop owner Dan Tee ran a bustling — though safely distanced — hair cutting operation. The hair stylist opened in December, only to be swiftly closed by the state two months later due to coronavirus.
“I thought it was going to be two weeks at first,” Tee said while styling a customer's hair. “Then you find out it's not going to be two weeks, then it's two months, then three months and then it starts being unreal.”
As employees sanitized chairs and benches with Lysol, Tee explained the new adjustments and sometimes frustrations of doing business during the coronavirus, from the continuous temperature checks to the backlog of personal protective equipment orders.
One change for the better, though, was that people came looking to change up their usual hair styles.
“People don't just want to have the same style during this quarantine,” Tee said. “They've learned to look at themselves a little bit and desire a new change.”
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