Salons key to Main Street’s retail future

Foot traffic picks up after governor loosens restrictions; salon owners say there’s a long way to go

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Businesses on Main Street (and throughout California) brace for the economic impact of the tightened pandemic restrictions imposed by the state this week. Staff photo

Weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom loosened restrictions on businesses, foot traffic on Main Street has increased.

Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce President Rob Janhcke said salons are critical to that dynamic.

“Now, we’re going to see foot traffic again,” Janhcke said.

The link between salons and retails is especially important, he said.

“When there’s no foot traffic, it affects the ecosystem… The real winners here are the salons. They were dramatically affected by the last state order. The traffic on Main Street dropped way down, which affects all the retail business.”

Orange County had been in the most restrictive tier of the state’s four-tier system before Newsom moved the county to a less-stringent tier because indicators such as hospitalizations and ICU capacity have been looking better.

As of Tuesday of this week, 750 county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Two-hundred-and-fifty-seven of those were in ICU.

The governor’s move paved the way for outdoor dining, as well as at least some services at gyms, barber shops and nail salons, among other businesses. Most restaurants on Main Street have created outdoor dining enclaves, and city officials are looking at how to make that a permanent feature with sound planning and infrastructure.

Since the coronavirus pandemic took the world, and Orange County, by storm in early 2020, business leaders have echoed a common sentiment: when salons suffer, so do clothing stores, jewelry stores, specialty shops and the like.

The issue became vital in the November 2020 election.

Congresswoman Michelle Steel and State Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen, to name just two OC lawmakers, made support of reopening salons central campaign issues. Both were elected to their respective posts for the first time.

Yet salons, which are now allowed to operate at 25 percent indoor capacity, are still struggling. Matthew Clark, owner of Upstairs Downstairs Salon at 224 Main, one of eight salons on Main Street, said he’s looking at the long game.

“We’re slowly growing,” he said. “It’s something I’ve built over the years. Now, I’m starting over.”

Clark said his salon was forced to shut down for eight months, and salons are low on the totem pole when it comes to getting PPP and other assistance.

“Has it affected us? You bet. In the future, all depends on the vaccine. Time is in the air.”

Brady Rhoades is an editor. He can be reached at brhoades@localnewspapers.org.