Salon, tattoo parlor owners prepare for COVID-19 closures beyond Iowa governor’s order

Following a state public health emergency declaration, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, announced the closures of salons, tattoo parlors, and many other close contact services through the end of the month due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Iowa.


Hayden Froehlich

Thompson & Co Salon and Parlor is seen on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

Hannah Rovner, News Reporter

Melissa Avenson and her stylists have spent the last couple months doing hair in temporary locations, hopping from salon to salon after flooding damaged their Highway 1 location. 

As owner of Iowa City’s Avenson Salon & Spa, Avenson had been focused on revamping the salon’s building, but decided to close up shop in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 three days before Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ mandate.

In response to an order from Reynolds that all salons, medical spas, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and massage therapists close through the end of March to limit the spread of COVID-19, many of these businesses, like Avenson’s, are preparing for even longer closures.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the new preventative measures come less than a week after Reynolds closed all bars and restaurants in the state, as surrounding states also ramp up their efforts to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.

Avenson said the statewide shutdown of businesses like hers by Reynolds impacts finances, but is also about the health and safety of others.

“We have stylists in our salon that have auto-immune deficiencies that range from mild to super severe,” Avenson said. “I have to keep everyone’s best interest in mind — especially [for my employees].”

Avenson said she has been in constant conversation with her stylists as to what the next few weeks could look like, even beyond the March mandate which is slated to end soon. They are not banking on re-opening on April 1 at all, she added.

Related: Governor closes salons, spas, tattoo shops, and more to combat COVID-19

Employees at Avenson Salon are currently discussing business alternatives to keep the salon from closing if they are in fact not allowed to re-open by the end of the month, such as a limited number of stylists in the salon at a time, no double bookings, and other methods that would minimize the number of people in the salon while still keeping it in business.

Hayden Froehlich
A sign in the Candy Nails window is seen on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

“We want to make it clear if [the client] is sick, if [the stylist] is sick, let’s respect one another and reschedule appointments,” Avenson said.

Leadership at Iowa City salon Thompson & Co decided on its temporary closure a week prior to the governor’s announcement. Owner Bobby Thompson said he has a goal to open April 2, but is still taking steps day by day.

“We don’t know if that’s still the goal — again, to us the most important thing is the safety of our staff and our guests” Thompson said. “So, we’re going to play it by ear, and as more information comes out from Gov. Kim Reynolds and the health care community, [we will reassess].”

Thompson & Co receives much of its business from the University of Iowa student population due to the salon’s proximity to campus. Thompson said, however, that support and business from other sectors of the community will keep the salon from being hit hard due to the UI’s move to virtual learning and students moving home.

Another industry included in the mandate by Reynolds is the tattoo and piercing industry. Velvet Lotus Tattoo began taking precautions with the outbreak of COVID-19 beginning March 17, five days before Reynolds ordered parlors close, by limiting business to appointment only, said owner Michelle Balhan.

“After hearing some rumors going around via Facebook and other industries, I reached out to the Iowa Department of [Public] Health to get some clarity, to which they responded at the time that tattoo parlors are not required to close,” Balhan said.

The following day, however, Balhan decided to close the Velvet Lotus tattoo shop in the interest of public safety.

Balhan said she made these decisions based on the safety of her tattoo artists that subcontract out of Velvet Lotus and their clients as well, due to the intimacy of the tattoo process.

Owners across both these industries shared their passion for the art of their processes, and also the safety of their employees during such a turbulent time.

“We are not very good at being idle,” Avenson said.