There are some things you probably shouldn’t attempt without a professional: Installing a dishwasher, taking a computer apart to fix a technical issue, cutting your own hair, especially cutting your own hair. As hair has gotten longer and styling options slimmer during the Illinois stay-at-home order, many have resorted to cutting and buzzing it themselves. Others waited patiently for Governor Pritzker’s announcement of the Phase Three reopening on May 29th, which included hair salons.
The Phase Three reopening announcement allowed personal care services like spas and barbershops to open with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits. Some local hairdressers and barber shops decided to reopen on adjusted schedules and take new precautions to ensure the same high-quality service for their customers as before, while remaining safe. Edith Peacock of H2O Salon in Urbana and Patrick Smith of The Vintage Edge Barber Shop in Champaign, both popular businesses with loyal clientele and beaming reviews, spoke with me on their experiences with the stay-at-home order and their excitement to hit the ground running again.
Smile Politely: Hello! What’s your name and what’s the name of your business?
Edith Peacock: My name is Edith Peacock, owner of H2O Salon. We opened H2O in Urbana in December 2005.
Patrick Smith: My name is Patrick Smith. We are The Vintage Edge Barber Shop, located in Downtown Champaign. We opened in 2018, so we’re approaching the 2-year mark now.
SP: You’re both housed in distinct downtown locations. Can you share a bit about why you chose your location?
Peacock: I love Urbana and I love the people. They’re laid-back, they identify with being green, sustainable, and I wanted my business to be integrated into that culture.
Smith: We loved the look and vibe of The Art Theater building. We felt it was fitting to take over the retail store front which was previously The Red Barron Barbershop and continue the tradition of it being a barbershop. We love the community in Champaign and we thought it was a good hub to get connected to the locals. There is also a lot of small businesses in Downtown Champaign, so we wanted to shoulder-up next to other like-minded small businesses. We love variety — I’m from Chicago, so that’s part of why we picked Downtown Champaign. Plus there are so many thriving neighborhoods all around with new apartments added. We really felt it was the perfect atmosphere.
SP: What’s your personal favorite service that you offer?
Peacock: Everything is awesome, but I think our biggest signature service is our amazing scalp massage that we give with haircuts. It makes people relax and feel happy, and then follows with a great haircut. But yeah, I’d say our shampoo and scalp massage is something that has become a client favorite part of our haircuts.
Smith: Favorite service is probably the classic haircuts. You know, I personally like a lot of the classic throwback haircuts, they’re fun. So, that’s one of the things that I definitely enjoy is the classic styles. Although the greatest service is simply making someone look and feel their best. Our approach to everything is to put your best foot forward and give 120 percent. We really know that nowadays it’s hard to get your money’s worth. We just want to give people a service that’s much more than an In and out. So we really push a lot of detail and quality in our work.
SP: What has been your business’ experience with the stay-at-home order?
Peacock: We closed at the beginning of the stay-at-home order. I don’t think anybody had a choice to stay home; we’re fighting an invisible enemy and officials are doing the best they could do to protect the people. And we don’t yet know how to fight this. How else can we do that if we don’t stay home?
Smith: We’ve put a serious amount of blood, sweat and tears; along with a lot of heart and soul in growing our business from the ground up. We spend more of our time at the barbershop than we do at home. We knew the situation was serious. So we closed the shop early a week prior to the stay-at-home order, but it was hard being disconnected with something that you’re so passionate about. Not only the business that you’ve created, but again, that whole Downtown Champaign vibe and all the fellow small businesses. You know, you look forward to waving to your neighbors every morning as they open up. You look forward to seeing all your clients which is your connection to the community and interacting with them. So that was rough, not having that every day. But we’re excited to go back into that again.
SP: What has your business been up to in the interim?
Peacock: In the meantime, we’ve been more engaged in social media. As far as educating people on how to use our products, curbside pickup sales, and contactless delivery. Also, some limited haircut tips via video call for the brave ones.
Smith: Absolutely nothing. We completely had to shut it down, wait, watch, and listen for any news. We periodically checked up on the shop to make sure things were okay and that was really about it. It was a complete standstill on any services unfortunately. It was a very trying time.
SP: Did you reopen on the first day of the Governor’s Phase Three Restoration? Why or why not?
Peacock: We didn’t open on May 29th. We are waiting to reopen on June 15th. I don’t have the money to wait longer. We didn’t open because I didn’t feel we were ready yet to open; we are in an industry where we have to be touching people. We’re not medical professionals, so we don’t have the same PPE that they have. But we are touching people. And the guidelines are to wear a mask and watch your hands. We wash our hands a lot at the salon, but keeping social distance is impossible in our profession. So we’re sitting ducks at the moment. That’s why I decided to wait longer and take extra precautions.
Smith: Yes, we did reopen. Because of the new guidelines, we did a soft opening with close friends and family on May 29th. We needed to feel out how this was going to change our service times with a client so we could make adjustments on how much time would be needed in making new schedule times with a client. When we opened back up in full swing on June 2nd, we weren’t so uncomfortable and unaccustomed with the new changes. We felt that if the government had come through a little more on support to small businesses, we probably would have waited a little bit longer and try to ride it out. Although being that a lot of help didn’t come through like they said, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, unfortunately. So we’re taking all the precautions possible to maintain our health and safety. As well as the health and safety of our clients and members of the community above all.
SP: Is there anything that clients and community members can do right now to make the process easier and support you at this time?
Peacock: People have been amazing. They’ve been buying gift certificates and products, which helps us tremendously. We also have a Refillable Shampoo station. That’s our baby. We’re moving to zero-waste and we also have a green salon, meaning you can bring in your containers and fill them up with our products in bulk. There are too many plastic caps and bottles. We’re also selling TSA-approved solid shampoos and conditioners. We are in the #zerowaste movement.
Smith: We’ve decided to try something new: we’re bringing in an online booking system that clients can start booking their own appointments online or download an app to their phones. Which will help out on some of the phone calls we’d have to normally take and help us cut back on losing service time with our clients. Although we will still have the option for those that may prefer to call and schedule, we feel that for many it will be more convenient for clients to make an appointment on the app. Otherwise, the only thing that we require from them at this time is to bring a mask and to take note if they have any symptoms or feel sick. If they do we ask for them to go ahead and cancel the appointment so we can reschedule it for another time. With everything going on, it’s better to be on the cautious side of things.
SP: Is there anything else you’d like the C-U community to know?
Peacock: I want to thank our clients and the community. They’ve been great: our clients, the city of Urbana. You can also follow us on Facebook and our website for options to buy gift certificates, read our bios and read all of the updates we’re doing. You can also call us and leave messages there. We can’t wait for you to come back in.
Smith: We’re a mom-and-pop shop; Kayla (Collins) and I are a couple and we started this shop together. You don’t seem to find that too often nowadays. We are accepting of all people, no matter who they are or where they’re from. We’re pretty relaxed and open-minded compared to the older days of barbershops with being male based. Everyone’s welcome here. If we provide the service that you’re looking for, then give us a try. You can find many examples of our cuts online via Google or Facebook.
109 N Broadway Ave
Tu-F 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reopening June 15
The Vintage Edge Barber Shop
128 W. Church St.
M-Sa 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.