MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
When the pandemic shut down the U.S. last year, the beauty service industry took a big hit. And though many salons reopened in some capacity last summer, a lot of customers did not feel safe going back to their stylists for cuts or color.
REBECCA HAEHNLE: We can't keep 6 feet or even 3 feet. We're on top of you. We're touching you.
KELLY: Now that vaccines are rolling out, though, things are starting to look up. NPR's Mia Venkat reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF HAIR DRYER RUNNING)
HAEHNLE: So do you - when you typically - do you prefer me to not really break it up...
ALWYNNE WILBUR: No. Get it big.
HAEHNLE: OK. OK.
(SOUNDBITE OF HAIR DRYER RUNNING)
HAEHNLE: That's what I need to know.
WILBUR: Get her big. Get her big.
MIA VENKAT, BYLINE: The air is buzzing at Parlour Salon in Washington, D.C., these days, where clients and stylists are catching up over the roar of blowdryers.
HAEHNLE: Hey, Alwynne.
HAEHNLE: Come on in.
VENKAT: Owner Rebecca Haehnle greets Alwynne Wilbur, a client she's had since 1998. This was her first time seeing each other in more than a year. But now...
WILBUR: As soon as I got my second vaccination, I looked on Rebecca's calendar. And that was like probably six weeks ago, but her calendar was booked out. So I got, like, the first appointment I could get. And I'm really excited.
VENKAT: Business took a hit last year, but Haehnle says since the vaccine rollout, the phone's been ringing off the hook.
HAEHNLE: Oh, Parlour is going to be busy.
VENKAT: And it's not just Parlour. Danielle Cohen-Shohet is the CEO and co-founder of GlossGenius, a bookings and payments platform used by salons, spas and barbershops. She says this uptick can be seen all across the country.
DANIELLE COHEN-SHOHET: We've seen more and more vaccinations, which has been very positive for demand in the industry. The internal data we have shows bookings nationwide up more than about 20% since the beginning of the year, despite what's usually a period when the industry is on somewhat of a post-holiday downswing.
VENKAT: Stephen Adams is the co-owner of both Moxie Hair Salon and ShairedSpace salon, both side-by-side on a strip in St. Paul, Minn.
STEPHEN ADAMS: So the last two months have been almost as par to what we were doing before. So at the lowest point, we were doing almost 40, 45% less than what we were doing before. And then as soon as spring came, it just - boom, just changed dramatically.
EMILY ANDERSON: We're booked. Everybody's busy every single day. We have weddings booked out through next year, people excited to come in and get their hair done. So it's a very exciting summer.
VENKAT: And that's Emily Anderson, the owner of Good Co. Salon & Spa in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Both she and Stephen Adams welcomed back many familiar faces in the last few months and new clients, too. And something all the styles I talked to had in common - lots of people coming in asking for drastic changes.
ANDERSON: It's like a new beginning, a fresh start for everybody.
HAEHNLE: Color, color, color, color. I need color. I need my gray gone. I want to be blonde. I've always wanted to be pink.
ADAMS: A lot of people in the, like, late 60s, 70s are doing less color. They're like, I have embraced it. I've grown it out. So I'm just going to let it be, which is awesome.
ANDERSON: Lots of money pieces, which is those bright, you know, highlights right around your face that you saw back in the Vitamin C, Kelly Clarkson era.
VENKAT: Whether clients want a whole new look or a moment of self-care after a year with a lot of pain, a trip to the salon can feel like a welcome bit of normalcy for both the person in the chair and the one behind it.
ADAMS: I mean, I look at most of my clients as friends. You know, it's like I would hang out with them all outside of the salon if I could.
ANDERSON: You know, the energy has shifted. And everybody is laughing together and talking together. You feel more of a sense of community. And I think that's what makes our industry so unique is it's a place you can go, talk about whatever you want to talk about, get whatever off your chest and also just communicate with other people.
VENKAT: It'll take time for many of these salons to recover from the financial hit they took during the pandemic. But as for now, stylists are just happy to be back with their clients and doing what they love. Mia Venkat, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.