Last updated on May 22nd, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Milwaukee-based Neroli Salon & Spa is in the midst of a soft opening this week as the business and its nearly 250 employees prepare for what a full-service beauty and wellness experience looks like in the new normal.
Neroli’s seven locations (six in the Milwaukee area and one in downtown Madison) will fully reopen on May 26, which had always been the plan under the state’s Safer at Home order.
After the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the order last week, businesses in many parts of the state were free to reopen immediately without restrictions. A handful of cities and counties, including Milwaukee soon implemented their own restrictions, but salons remained among the businesses allowed to open.
Neroli owner Susan Haise decided to keep with the original reopening date, while giving technicians the option to come back this week for limited appointments with select regulars.
“Most people had planned to come back on May 26,” she said. “The early adjustment to that I think left a lot of people with a lot of shock.”
She noted that the majority of her employees have children at home, so they rely on childcare to come back to work.
Soft opening appointments had to be made by phone or directly with the technician, but new and existing customers can now make reservations online or via Neroli’s app for dates after May 26.
Customers might have to wait a little longer to book their favorite technician as some are booked out four to six weeks due to pent up demand, Haise said.
“Interest has been very high. You look good, you feel good,” she said. “I think the consumer is tired and just wants to get their life back to as close as the new normal is going to look like.”
A full schedule is good for business, but it presents its own set of challenges for keeping locations clean and the people inside them safe.
Haise said the business has invested about $5,000 to $6,000 per store in PPE for employees and customers, plexiglass dividers for retail areas, and additional sanitation equipment and supplies, including non-touch hand sanitizer dispensers.
This week, each technician received a kit containing a face shield, face mask, optional goggles, optional smock and reusable gloves that can be used in hair or on skin without compromising the service.
Hair dryer usage will be limited in order to minimize air flow throughout the space, Haise said.
Scheduling will be modified to accommodate high demand and in-store limited capacity. Starting May 26, business hours at all locations will be extended from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“If any guest is unable to attend and does not provide advance notice, we will charge 100% for that service,” she said. “We are asking guests to understand, because of the high demand.”
In addition to Neroli Salon & Spa, Haise owns two beauty schools, The Institute of Beauty & Wellness in the Third Ward and The Aveda Institute in Madison. Almost all of the 278 students at the two schools have transitioned to virtual learning over the past eight weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Early next month, Haise will expand her beauty business with a new medical aesthetics brand, called Skin Bar RX. Its two facilities, in Shorewood and Pewaukee, had been slated to open in early April, but the process was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 shut down.
Haise feels strongly that Neroli and local salons are equipped to handle the challenge of incorporating additional safety measures while staying in business during economic down turn. Historically, she said, the beauty industry has cleared similar hurdles thanks to consumer demand.
“There’s a lot of training that goes into safety and sanitation, and so the consumer should feel safe going into their local salons, spas and barber shops,” she said.
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