YK’s hair dressers and barbers excited but cautious to reopen

Last modified: May 15, 2020 at 9:26am

Northerners sporting shaggy locks and grown-in roots have been happy to learn the NWT’s hair salons and barber shops could soon reopen. 

Phase one of the NWT’s plan to ease public health restrictions will allow one-on-one services like hair and nail salons, barber shops, and spas to reopen – as long as they meet certain conditions.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola has said phase one could start as soon as Friday.


But don’t expect your favourite salon to simply fling open its doors.

Jennifer Fischlin, who owns Vixen Hair Den on Yellowknife’s Franklin Avenue, is looking forward to reopening and said many customers have reached out. However, if phase one is given the green light at the end of the week, she said her salon will need time. 

“We’re going to have to go through a few loops to get up and running,” Fischlin said. 

That includes getting plexiglass dividers and masks, removing some furniture from the salon, and making sure there is sanitizer in place. 

According to the government’s Emerging Wisely recovery plan, barber shops and hair salons need to have physical barriers in place, improved ventilation, touch-free payment, and no waiting rooms. Staff and clients need to wear masks or face shields, while high-touch surfaces need to be cleaned and sanitized between each client. 


A spokesperson for the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) said employers must have an exposure control plan in place before they can reopen. They must also complete risk assessments and webinars available on the WSCC website

Fischlin said those conditions mean things will be a little different once Vixen Hair Den does reopen. The salon will no longer accept walk-in clients and won’t be able to book as many clients a day. 

“I think it’s really important that the public will feel safe. That’s what we’re trying to do now, make it safe for staff and the public,” she said.

‘My phone hasn’t stopped ringing’

James McGaughey, one of the owners of Ragged Ass Barbers in YK Centre, said the rules will make the atmosphere at his shop quite different. He said he’s “very excited” at the prospect of reopening. 


Clients at Ragged Ass Barbers usually walk in and wait in the shop to see a barber. As waiting rooms are not permitted under phase one of the government’s plan, McGaughey said Ragged Ass Barbers will implement a numbers system and work on taking appointments. The shop won’t offer shaving services for the time being.

“I’m just happy to be going back to work. Hopefully we can keep everybody safe and things keep progressively getting better,” he said.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing for the last 40 days from people wanting haircuts, so I know we’re going to be busy.” 

McGaughey said the effect of being closed during the pandemic had been “quite a shocker.”  

“Barbering has paid my bills and put food on my family’s table for the last 20 years and all of a sudden it’s taken away from you. Nobody could’ve ever predicted any of this,” he told Cabin Radio.

“You just try to remain positive and do what you can and eventually, hopefully things will turn around.” 

Speaking before the recovery plan was revealed, Michelle Fortin – co-owner of New Dimensions Hair Salon – said she was looking forward to the announcement. Her preparations to reopen included purchasing sanitizer and deep-cleaning the salon.

Fortin estimated around 100 appointments had to be cancelled when the salon closed. When New Dimensions reopens, those clients will be contacted and rebooked.

“Everyone wants to be the first one to get their haircut but we will definitely start with the clients that already had appointments we had to cancel,” she said.

Fortin said the salon will take fewer clients than normal to ensure physical distancing and provide time to clean and sanitize thoroughly.