The Reopening of Our Local Service Economy

By Patricia Chadwick

Greenwich, like so many towns across the country, is tiptoeing its way back to normalcy, or should I say, a new state of normalcy.

After ten weeks of virtual house arrest, there is a novelty to how we can now enjoy a meal in a restaurant – or, better stated, “outside” the restaurant. It’s an odd sensation when you see friends at the next table, which is a good ten feet away, and you instinctively want to embrace them but realize that engagement is limited to a wave and perhaps a few shouts of greeting.

The mundane tasks we have taken for granted for decades suddenly feel like an adventure – creating a pile of sweaters that have been worn, sometimes the same one for days in a row, and bringing them to the dry cleaner. The temptation to enter a clothing store is now tinged with at least a modicum of anxiety – What will be the process when I get there? Will I have to follow the arrows? Will everyone be wearing masks? They’d better be, or I’ll have to turn around and go home.

These excursions remind me of the children’s book,” We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”, in which there are obstacles and challenges. Such is our state of life today – and the question that sits in the back of our minds is, “For how long?”

But when it comes to prioritizing the many services that are increasingly opening up once again, there is one that I’m willing to wager ranks above all others and carries with it more psychic enjoyment than the rest combined – the opportunity at long last to go to one’s very own hairdresser.

I’m not alone among devoted customers who kept in contact with their hairdressers during our weeks of confinement, either by telephone, text, or tweet and more. Hairdressers are extended members of the family – in those stretches of time when foils and snips and clips are being administered to one’s hair – it feels safe to share with your hairdresser bits of family news you wouldn’t share with any other “stranger”, because you spill the beans to them and they tell you all about their family. There’s a mutual therapy session between you and your hairdresser.

Maria Livesay is the owner of the eponymous salon which has been my hairdressing home for what seems like forever. She recently gave me a sense of what it was like to be catapulted into COVID-19 hell and to spend weeks and thousands of dollars to retrofit her business in time for re-opening on June 1.

Maria Livesay

As with so many small businesses – Maria Livesay Salon employs fifteen people – the Payroll Protection Program was the difference between survival and God only knows what. Unlike so many businesses that have been able to survive because their employees can work from home, hair salons were shut down and the employees had to be furloughed for more than ten weeks.

While much of the country was paralyzed during the period of shutdown, Maria was studying, researching, and spending thousands of dollars of her own capital to convert the already elegant 2200 square foot salon into a state-of-the-art space that felt safe, comfortable and welcoming. Nothing was overlooked in the process, from pre-packaged coats, to plexiglass protectors and safety spacing.

In order to ensure the well being of the patrons, Maria has expanded the hours of operation to eleven hours each day, and she is there from opening till closing. This is the kind of dedication, entrepreneurship, and service that exemplifies the best of America. Thank you, Maria, and thank you to so many other small business owners for your leadership.