LACONIA — Sam “Harvard” Ferranti and Gina Nadeau stood outside Polished and Proper on Monday, just shooting the breeze.
The only thing that looked a little different from a normal day was that both barbers were wearing cloth face masks.
Inside, shop owner Bree Neal was wearing an N95 mask.
Closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barber shops and salons on Monday became one of the first segments of the economy that could reopen under order of Gov. Chris Sununu.
Ferranti said he had mixed feelings.
“To be honest, I feel like this is a little too early, in my own opinion,” he said. “I feel it’s just going to strike back and then we’re all going to close down again. I’m just being a pessimist. I am glad to see everybody again.”
When a customer is wearing a mask, how does a barber avoid cutting the elastic that is holding it in place?
“Hopefully, it’s nice and tight and we can push the elastic down and go around,” Ferranti said.
The silver lining of his recent unemployment is the opportunity to look into a possible career change.
Ferranti had plenty of time to study for his ultimate goal of becoming a computer programmer.
Nadeau spotted her customer, Howard Phelps, and let him in the shop. All haircuts are now by appointment only. There’s no more loitering around the barber shop.
At age 77, Phelps’ gray hair has thinned, and his time away from a barber has allowed his “horseshoe flattop” to grow out.
He said it doesn’t feel strange to get a haircut while wearing a mask.
“No, it’s just weird getting your haircut by her,” Phelps quipped, nodding toward Nadeau.
Neal, who said she is booked with customers until the end of the month, finished a haircut in an adjoining room and Harvey, her Welsh Corgi, barked a greeting.
“He is so happy to be back in here,” Neal said. “He took it harder than anybody else. He’s used to getting all the attention. The last eight weeks he’s been barking at everybody in hopes of getting their attention. He’s like, ‘Love me, I’m adorable.’”
She said barber shops are a logical choice for a return to business as they have always been required to practice good hygiene.
“We always have to stay home if we are sick with anything, so those things we have to do all the time are elevated procedures for a lot of other industries,” Neal said.
Barbers and hair salons must abide by a list of precautions, which includes no blow-drying of hair, empty waiting areas, cloth face coverings by everyone inside, and no more than 10 people in the shop or salon at any given time, and they should be stationed 6 feet apart.
Neal said New Hampshire’s relatively low COVID-19 caseload and high capacity of available hospital resources argue for economic reopening.
“A place like New York, California, high-risk places that are overwhelmed with their health care systems, that’s a different story,” she said.