Marcus's Signature Cuts and Shaves Barber Shop in northwest D.C. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Marcus's Signature Cuts and Shaves Barber Shop in northwest D.C. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

The all-too-familiar sounds of clippers and blow dryers and music playing under the laughter and cajoling of patrons of D.C. barbershops and beauty salons will come to a screeching halt Thursday at 10 p.m. They’ll stay that way until April 24 due to an order issued by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser as a means to mitigate the coronavirus in the District.

The order did not come as a surprise to Wanda Henderson, owner of Wanda’s on 7th, a salon and barbershop near Florida Avenue in Northwest. Her shop has remained open, even while District residents were being encouraged to stay inside.

“We have seen a change, a huge shift in customers coming in,” Henderson said. “I would say we are dealing with a 60 percent decline since the coronavirus arrived.”

As of press time, states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota ordered the shuttering of barbershops and beauty salons due to the virus. In the District, Bowser’s recent order requires temporary closure of the on-site operation of all nonessential businesses and prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people.

The temporary order a broad of businesses to cease operations including tour guides and touring services; gyms, health clubs, spas and massage establishments; theaters, auditoriums and other places of large gatherings; nightclubs; hair, nail and tanning salons and barbershops; tattoo parlors; sales not involved in essential services; retail clothing stores; and professional services not devoted to assisting essential business operations.

Wanda Henderson talks to The Washington Informer about customer loyalty and how they support her business in northwest D.C. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

“My staff and I have discussed a possible lockdown,” Henderson said before learning of the mayor’s order. “Our plan now is to stay open as long as we can under the law. We understand that we may have to close at any time and we are ready to endure possibly two weeks of closure if we have to.”

Henderson said she and her staff have long stressed cleanliness at Wanda’s. She makes sure her barbers and beauticians wash their hands after servicing each customer, hand sanitizers are at every station and disposable wipes are available at the front of the business.

“We serve people from ages 1-100 and we make it a priority that our space is clean,” Henderson said.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in the District, cleanliness has also become a priority for Ralph Thomas, the head barber at D’s Barber and Grooming Salon in the Northwest neighborhood of Takoma Park.

“Our staff is prepared for the virus,” Thomas said. “The virus is affecting the business, definitely.”

Thomas said his older customers are more concerned about the coronavirus than their younger clients seem to be. Regardless of age, Thomas said, he tells all of his customers to “wash their hands, stay out of the reach of sick people and cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.”

“If people do that, we will get this under control,” he said.

Both Henderson and Thomas say that her business and his employer, respectively, may have to rely on government assistance until the coronavirus has come under control. Henderson said she has talked with the executive director of Shaw Main Streets about the possibility of financial support.

“I heard from [Alex] Padro and he said he would work with us to secure relief,” she said. “I have also interacted with representatives at the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development and I have a link to the Small Business Administration. Hopefully, we can get some help.”

Dwayne Williams, a longtime patron of Wanda’s, said the shop needs government support at this time.

“Small businesses are the engine of D.C. and businesses like this need support,” said Williams, a resident of Southeast. “Wanda’s offers her customers a place to get their hair done and a sense of community when you come here. She takes care of us and now it is time for the D.C. government to take care of her so she can continue to thrive.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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