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'Let's come outside and cut hair': Salon owner takes open-air approach amid COVID pandemic

How a hair salon in Atlanta is adapting to the pandemic and bringing comfort to customers.

ATLANTA — After 33 years in business, Steve Hightower says this pandemic has been the biggest challenge of his career; closing down the Steve Hightower Hair Salon and Day Spa on Lindbergh Way for more than 6 weeks.

"Rent goes on, everything else goes on," Hightower said. "I did apply for the PPP loan but it came two weeks after I reopened so I sent it back."

Hightower said his clients range from 6 years old to 95, but many are in that older age bracket and at higher risk for COVID-19.

"I specialize in clients with fine and thinning hair, I work with a lot of clients who have chemo," said Hightower.

And that presented another challenge: how to make clients feel safe coming in.

So, three months ago he changed his outdoor deck into an outdoor extension of his salon.

"Right now, they're coming outside and they're loving it and in the fall we're going to have it heated and they're gonna continue to come," said Hightower.

But Hightower said he ran into yet another challenge when he tried to buy outdoor heaters.

"A heater is the new toilet paper, I called every Home Depot in the city, every Lowes - nobody had one," Hightower said. "I called Sam's, they had 16. I literally got in my car and drove out there and they had one left."

That one space heater is on the deck next to four socially distanced chairs.

So, now, they'll wrap plastic around the back deck, letting air get through while making the most of the heater they have. 

Hightower said every new challenge takes some new ideas and a lot of faith.

"I pray every day to watch over us, watch over my clients, my staff, and we'll get through this," Hightower said. "It's gonna take a while."

Hightower said business, right now, is half of what it was last year at this time and he doesn't expect that to increase until next spring. He just hopes they can stay afloat until that time.