First customers begin to stream into barber shops, gyms, other businesses

ATLANTA — Many barbershops, salons and gyms are opening up Friday for the first time in weeks.

Gov. Brian Kemp is beginning to allow some businesses to open their doors as part of his plan to reopen Georgia.

Not every store that’s allowed to reopen is doing so.

We drove around to several counties and talked to a number of business owners. Some said it’s too early and just don’t want to take any risk, while others say they’re ready to get back to work.

Barbershops see lines of customers:

Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach was at one barbershop when the first customer arrived Friday morning.

Peachtree Battle Barbershop opened up at 7 a.m. and people were already waiting in line. Regular customers were anxious for a trim, and owner Chris Edwards said he is eager to have income again.

“We’re small businessmen, we don’t have any help, rent still comes in. If we don’t cut hair, we don’t get paid,” Edwards said. “I’m sanitizing everything, (wearing a) mask, getting it going.”

When Gehlbach posted a photo from inside the barbershop Friday morning, many people on social media asked if employees were taking all the proper precautions. Gehlbach checked the guidelines from the state board of cosmetology and they are only requiring staffers to wear masks and sanitize between customers. Everything from barbers wearing gloves to customers wearing masks is only recommended.

Some people told Gehlbach they thought it was foolish to put people’s lives in danger just for a fresh cut, but others applauded the move, saying you can open up safely and smartly.

“I think it’s good to go. I agree with the governor’s decision,” one person said.

[FULL LIST: Stores allowed to open in Georgia in Phase 1 of COVID-19 recovery]

Hairstylists weigh the pros and cons of going back to work:

Not working just wasn’t an option for hairstylist Adrianna Nicole. She’s a single mother who temporarily closed her Cobb County salon’s doors when the governor said she had to. But now that Kemp is allowing hair and nail salons to reopen, it was easy to make her choice.

“I mean, I’m just doing what I have to do to make sure I can keep my business afloat and make sure I can pay my bills,” Nicole said. “We’re making everyone wear masks in the salon as a precaution. We’re not allowing a lot of people, and we’re cleaning up. We’ve always cleaned up.”

Nicole told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that she thought about applying for a small business loan, but the money ran out before she could get her hands on it.

“If I don’t work, I’m not able to feed my family,” Nicole said.

Nicole said she is still waiting for a stimulus check.

Fernandes also talked to Justyn Lamar, a hairstylist in metro Atlanta. He said he’s been considering going back to work, but as he continues to watch the growing death toll nationwide, and doesn’t see a two-week decline in cases, he’s going to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines instead of the state government’s guidelines.

“I’ve experienced so many emotions, from confusion to sadness to depression, because it’s a lot of people dying,” Lamar said. “One person is too many.”

Lamar said part of his decision not to go back to work Friday is because he doesn’t have any children and he’s got family and friends who have been helping him along. But he understands why others are working today.

In Woodstock, Salon Gloss was checking customer’s temperatures at the door, but that wasn’t stopping an influx of customers.

“We're fully booked for the next week, and we're already booking into week two now,” said Salon Gloss owner Tim Timmons.

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Timmons said they chose to reopen while following guidelines issued by the state.

“We are taking all the steps possible to safeguard. It’s not business as usual,” Timmons said.

Karles Brown, a barber with Supreme Cuts in McDonough, said his shop is choosing not to open because getting needed protective gear has been a challenge.


“There’s no haircut worth someone dying,” Brown said.

Tress and Shears salon in southwest Atlanta will also stay closed.

[Liability, health concerns for business owners as Georgia moves to reopen]

Shimeka Lockett said no amount of safeguards can guarantee she won't be exposed.

“I prefer my health and the health of my children and those around me over anything,” Lockett said.

“A lot of my staff they really need to get back to work, they’re not getting the support that everyone said was out there for them,” Timmons said.

Gyms work to find a new normal:

Some Georgia gyms and fitness centers opened up as soon as they were allowed today.

Channel 2′s Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas has been tracking who’s open and who’s not

At one gym in Grayson, the owners say it won’t be back to normal for a long time.

The Bodyflex gym opened at 6 a.m. and owners told Thomas they had about 10 to 25 percent of its normal traffic.

Co-owner Mike Martino said they aren’t taking this lightly and want to be an example of how to reopen safely.

“We are trying to use it more as a soft reopening,” Martino said.

Martino said with no day care, group or spin classes, only about 45 members showed up in the first few hours Friday. That’s compared to a normal count of 2,400.

“This is a way for us to be able to prepare our members for the future,” Martino said.

Friday was the first day in several weeks fitness centers and gyms could reopen. Thomas talked to several dozen locations around metro Atlanta and most planned to remain closed for at least a few more days.

At the Grayson Bodyflex, the owners said they are going beyond the government’s 20 required steps, including using hydrostatic cleaners on all the equipment. The owners said most of their employees are not back at work yet, but they hope to be an early adopter of the new normal that will serve as an example to other businesses.

“With that is a huge responsibility to do right by the general public, by our members, by our employees,” Ken Shields said. “And it’s tough to juggle.”

Customer Chandler Scanton jumped at the chance to get back to the gym.

“Just the ability to be able to come out and start back with society again is a good feeling,” Scranton said. “Everyone has the option of what they want to do, stay home or come out to the gym.”

The owners said they will likely lose some members who think they opened too early, but overall, the reaction has been positive.

Thomas spoke to another gym owner in Midtown who said he will reopen but only allow two customers at a time.

Earlier this week, LA Fitness announced plans to reopen Georgia gyms on May 1, but in an email to members Thursday night, the company said it decided to hold off for now.

[Salons, spas and barbershops must follow these guidelines when they reopen]