Hairdressers around Bega have reported that their books are finally starting to clear after a busy five weeks following the ending of Bega Valley's lockdown on September 16.
Just over a month of stay-at-home orders in the Valley left a few grey roots showing through in need of some serious TLC.
Despite customers desperate to get back in the salon, hairdressers from Bluegum Hair Studio and Studio 157 Hair Salonhad to go through a long backlog of clients from mid-August and September before letting other customers back in the chair.
"For the first two weeks after the lockdown we got totally smashed, it was very busy because we had to go back to the 15th of August to reaccommodate all our clients from then," said co-owner of Bluegum Chris Goldberg-Otton.
Ms Goldberg-Otton and business partner Debbie Alcock said the start of lockdowns in March 2020 meant they made the decision to close their books to new customers.
They also continued with just the two of them after their third staff member left to retrain in another industry.
"We decided to just keep the two of us on in case we had to close down again and it wasn't going to affect anyone else," said Ms Golberg-Otton.
Ryan Pauline Barber Shop is a walk-in service and on reopening had customers lining up out the door anxiously anticipating the end of a bad-hair month.
Mr Pauline, who has been a barber for 19 years, said he was arriving at 7am and not getting out until 8pm some days post lockdown, despite only usually doing a nine or 10 hour day.
"It's probably the busiest I've ever been in my whole working career," he said.
Mr Pauline's father, who taught him the tricks of the trade, even came out of his 15 year retirement just to help out during those first few weeks that were absolutely, "flat-out".
"Dad was all over it, he's still got it. I was very, very, lucky that my dad came back to get me out of that pickle," he said.
It's probably the busiest I've ever been in my whole working careerBega barber Ryan Pauline
There were times during the lockdown when each business worried about the prospect of not being able to open until possibly Christmas, but thanks to low case numbers in the Valley and high vaccination rates, their small businesses could remain open.
However, Many of the businesses reported having to open additional hours through the week or on the weekend just to keep up with the demand when the Valley came out of lockdown.
"That first week, we both worked about 43 hours that week and we could have done more," said Ms Goldberg-Otton.
"It's tough on your body after you've had five weeks off. Both Deb and I have been in business for 25 years so we're not spring chickens anymore," she said.
Russell Holdway from Studio 157 Hair Salon said the business had been managing fairly well despite only having an apprentice hairdresser since the start of the pandemic after another employee had to take leave.
"Our apprentice has had a bit of trouble with Moruya TAFE being closed down at times with the COVID cases up there, so she's had a little bit of home-schooling to do with her online TAFE work," he said.
Mr Holdway said they are still feeling the heat but are managing despite still feeling somewhat understaffed.
The businesses all had to be fast on their feet to keep up with the changing restrictions, but all of them reported their backlog was starting to clear and that things were finally, "getting back to normal".
"Today [Monday October 25] we walked in and we said, we think we've caught up, we've finally seen all those people who were booked in for those five weeks whilst we were closed down," Ms Goldberg-Otton said.
Similarly Mr Pauline said he'd only just caught up now, "but it's only just, I'm still pretty busy".
He said he had also seen a lot of new clients during his busiest weeks, who he presumed had not been able to get in to see their regular hairdresser.
For some clients, their hairdressing appointment was where they could chat and catch up with their hairdresser or others who had similar appointment schedules to them.
Social media was really helpful for Bluegum Hair Studio. It was used as a way to check in with clients during the lockdowns.
"We used our social media account just to reach out to our clients, putting up quirky pictures and whatnot and messages asking people how they were doing.
"We also sent out private message to some of our clients who we knew may have been doing it tough," said Ms Goldberg-Otton.
Mr Pauline was grateful to his clients who he said showed a lot of patience and understanding during the busy period.
"All my clients were just incredible. They all just understood the circumstances and were happy to wait," he said.
With school formals, the debutant ball, weddings, and a busy Christmas already on the cards, no doubt each of the hairdressers would have a lot on their plates despite the short relief of having "caught-up".
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