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Heartbreak for local businesses in Santa Maria able to open up last month, forced to close their doors again Monday

Posted at 12:35 AM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 13:50:40-04

New health directives were made in Santa Barbara County Monday, causing heartbreak for local businesses in Santa Maria that were able to open up last month. Santa Barbara County is one of 30 counties on the state's watch list and Monday they received new orders to close down several businesses, including personal care services.

Pink Blossom in Santa Maria opened their doors up on June 9, after closing down for 89 days. Monday, they faced yet another closure.

Salon owner Kristi Nickason says the news came as a shock to her. Her first reaction the news was devastation.

“I just prayed that I read it wrong and there had to be something that we were not hearing. I am heartbroken. I'm absolutely devastated," Nickason said. "These are my best friends and I know I'm in a position where I really can't be without work, but I know a lot of my girls are even in a worse situation.”

The team of employees called and emergency meeting at 3 p.m. after receiving the news of their shop closure yet again. For more than three hours, Nickason spoke with her employees on what changes can be made.

“Life has to resume. We can’t live life in a bubble and we can’t live life in our own doors forever," Nickason said.

Positivity, despite frustration, filled the salon. Employees shared ideas on how to stay open, such as the possibility for haircuts outside the shop.

Juliet Hurley had to close down her business due to the pandemic. She now works as a stylist at Pink Blossom Salon.

Hurley feels the focus needs to be more about educating businesses on proper regulation and sanitation.

"Not just being quick to shut someone's livelihood down and their life savings," Hurley said. "People are living in fear because there are a lot of businesses that haven't been educated or that are not taking the precautions to keep it safe."

Roberta Maestas says she is in a similar situation. She has been a hair stylist for 40 years, 20 years in Santa Maria, and has had the same clients her entire career. She says some of her clients are in their 90's.

"I've had the same clients. They trust me to do the best I can and to keep them safe," Maestas said. "I care about them. They become family to you. They're not just a client, they're somebody you know."

The state's Board of Cosmetology teaches safety and sanitation to hair stylists. Maestas says hair salons in the community have not seen or heard from them on guidance during this difficult time.

"They should be educating us. If we need to change something or do something different, they are the ones who should come up with the ideas for that to happen," she said.

Personal care services such as nail salons were also ordered to close down their shops in Santa Barbara County. One Santa Maria nail salon says the closure takes a toll on the families of their workers who don't have the income to generate another form of money.

Some community members feel there are misconceptions about what is considered "essential," and businesses like nail and hair salons get overlooked.

Megan Stevens has been getting her hair cut at Pink Blossom for as long as she can remember. She said she feels at ease with the safety precautions put in place at the salon.

"Going back to the salon, it's something so little that we often take for granted, something as simple as getting out hair done. That's a piece of identity, that's a luxury and a 'treat-yourself' item," Stevens said.

Growing up in Santa Maria, she feels the small town aspect makes the closure of small businesses hit even harder.

"Along the Central Coast so many smaller mom and pop businesses have been affected," she said. "Essentially the business owners are community members."

With such a community driven town, customers and businesses like Pink Blossom feel it will take everyone to come together in order for change to be made.

One way the hair salon has advocated is by contacting their local leaders. Maestas says they need to be heard and the only way to do so is for city, county and state leaders to listen.

“I would like them to come in, see our salons, see what we do," she said. "Understand, before you shut someone down, see what their job is like. See if they’re making people safe or not."

Santa Barbara Countyhas seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. A closure to small businesses again though, is affecting Central Coast resident's livelihoods.

"It’s not coming and getting your hair done, it’s not getting your teeth cleaned, it’s not getting your nails done. All of us are taking extreme protective measures to protect you from the time you walk in this door until the time you leave," Nickason said.