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Postcards From The Pandemic: Shave And A Haircut, Two Shops

Many barbershops and salons are re-opening Friday — including Urban Kutz Barbershop's two locations in Cleveland.

Owner Waverly Willis is nervous about getting back to work during the coronavirus pandemic, but he's also glad to be making money again.

He has a busy weekend ahead with appointments booked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Urban Kutz, like many barbershops and salons, operates with a business model Willis calls 'a business within a business.' The other barbers in the shop aren't his employees. They rent space from Willis and cut hair as independent businesses.

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Willis at his shop in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood in May 2018. He runs a second location in Old Brooklyn. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Willis said he spoke with three different banks to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, but was denied because of the business within a business model where Willis technically doesn't have staff.

"It's very disheartening to know that there was no safety net in place for businesses that are structured like mine," Willis said.

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COVID Compliant

I got my cleaning crew in here because we're doing some COVID-19 cleaning. 

I'm confident, specifically with my businesses, that we're going to do everything that we can possible to follow the state mandated orders that we have to do as far as obviously constant cleaning, sanitizing and hand washing, wearing a mask, things of that nature and a few more things that I'm going to add in, specifically for my team.

I'm going to meet with my staff at both locations, and we're going to go through some walkthroughs of, you know, what happens if a walk-in and a person without an appointment comes in. How are we going to handle that? You know, things of that nature.

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Willis hired a cleaning crew to sanitize his two barbershops before re-opening on Friday. [Waverly Willis]

At my Detroit Avenue location, there's only going to be room in the seating area for three people.

Over at the Pearl Road location, you know, that's a lot bigger, but I did have to take several of my waiting area chairs out of there so we can have the six feet distance.

Money is Tight

I'm literally out of money. Me and all of my barbers, we are out of money.

When this thing hit, I went for the PPP and I was denied three different times from three different banks. They told me because my business was not structured correctly. 

This is the same model, the business within a business structure, that all of my forefathers in the barber and cosmetology industry have used for the last century. This is not a new model. 

I just don't have confidence in the powers that be to rescue me. 

Back to Business

I would be lying if I didn't say that we weren't a little nervous about going back to work because of the fact that this things is so contagious. And quite honestly, not everyone is taking this thing serious.

I'm excited to see the clients at Urban Kutz. I'm excited to see my team. 

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Waverly Willis opened Urban Kutz Barbershop 12 years ago. File photo: May 2018. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

I've been telling my barbers that you have to realize that you are on stage. People are not just looking at their haircuts anymore. They're looking to see how you handle your clients. How safely you clean your tools. All of that stuff.

Yeah, we're nervous, but we're broke at the same time. 

We got to get this ball rolling again and do everything that we possibly can to be safe.

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