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I went to the hair salon to find out what your next visit might be like

How will haircut appointments work in this strange new normal as cities reopen from coronavirus lockdown? I got a look behind the scenes inside Asheville, North Carolina's beloved Eclipse Salon as it reopens for service. Here's what to expect.

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Sarah Tew
Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Eclipse, a premiere salon in downtown Asheville, has begun taking appointments as the county enters Phase 2 of re-opening. Memorial Day weekend was the beginning of this "whole new world of hair," as stylist Carlton Alexander calls it. 

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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The use of face masks is required inside all businesses during this phase.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Though their doors are open, only those with appointments are allowed to enter the salon. Only half the usual customers are allowed inside at a time as a way to space out patrons' chairs.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Now that the salon is at half capacity, stylists are split into shifts staggered across the week -- every day, nine hours a day.  Even so, it's been tough to accommodate all those who are waiting for an appointment, Eclipse said.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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The receptionist has been rebooking appointments in chronological order, starting with customers who were on the books when the shut-down first began. She has a checklist of explanations about the new procedures and the mask requirement. She also reminds customers to cancel if they become symptomatic or ill and assures them the salon will do the same.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Many of their clients have been "excited, thankful and gracious," about the chance to have their hair professionally tended to after months of being left to their own devices.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Upon entering the salon, you'll be asked to either stay in the entry or wait outside if you are early for your appointment. Haircuts operate on a strict appointment basis -- no walk-ins at this time.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Per county regulations, face coverings are required indoors, so Eclipse is selling a line of stylish homemade masks sealed in plastic baggies to anyone who didn't bring their own with them.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Signage around the product shelves alerts patrons that they should request assistance instead of picking up products and reading labels themselves.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Eclipse is providing a paper barrier on salon chairs for each new customer. Nobody is allowed to sit in the waiting area and the salon can't offer their typical complimentary beverage, in an effort to keep any cross-contamination at bay.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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First you'll sit down with your clean, dry hair for the initial cutting. A shampoo and fine-tuning of the cut will come later. Use of hairdryers is considered less safe, so be prepared to leave with still-wet hair.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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While the salon was closed, they installed extra air filtration just to be as safe as possible.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Stylists are running through an expanded checklist of cleaning procedures between client appointments. To compensate for the added labor and materials, prices have gone up by $5 per service. 

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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In between uses, the salon uses a nifty UV light case that sanitizes objects in just a few minutes.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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They use it for hairbrushes, other styling tools and even cash tips.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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While visiting, I sanitized my phone -- and I fully intend to buy one of these when they're back in stock. The owner bought this model by 59S on Amazon.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Each station has the checklist laminated so stylists can refer to the new cleaning routines.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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One of the products Eclipse uses on certain surfaces is a 24-hour cleaning spray called Microban, which they say is less corrosive to their fine haircutting tools.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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After arriving donning his face mask, stylist Carlton Alexander sanitizes his hands to begin work.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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For some services like shorter haircuts, he adds the face-shield as extra protection from flying hair. On their first day back, the stylists tried using these all the time, but according to the receptionist, the shields caused headaches.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Eclipse owner, Jen Amann, puts on a disposable apron, now considered a best practice for salons. It's one less thing to try to keep clean between clients. Can you imagine the amount of laundry that would pile up each day?

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Clients are given a disposable plastic covering as well. As you can see, they have staggered the active work-stations to allow for more than six feet between clients' chairs.

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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Sarah Jane Whatley carefully wipes down her tools with cleaner, as well as the the station, chair arms and table top surfaces. "It's pretty anxiety-ridden time, but I'm excited to reconnect with my clients," she said. "It's kind of impossible to cut hair with gloves on, but we are constantly sanitizing our hands."

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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When paying, you might find yourself behind one of the plastic shields we've grown accustomed to seeing at grocery and other "essential" stores over the last month. 

Your next visit to the hair salon may be different after the reopening
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I'm so grateful to these stylists and customers for allowing us this peek into what may be "the new normal" during what is no doubt a very tricky time to navigate for every small business. As owner, Amann explained, she is doing her best to find a balance between protecting everyone's health, serving the salon's clients and getting the stylists working again.

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