Shay Merchav and Jennifer Nairn rely on their friendship to get them through
Story by Shanee EdwardS | PHOTO COURTESY OF BEAUTY BEACH LOUNGE
One of the businesses hit hardest by COVID-19 is the hair salon. California Governor Gavin Newsom has closed the industry, reopened it, then closed it again. At the time of press, hairstylists were only able to operate outdoors which means haircuts but not color, a big bummer for many people who rely on their colorist to feel confident about their appearance.
For Shay Merchav and Jennifer Nairn, owners of Beauty Beach Lounge at Runway, dealing with constantly changing orders regarding their salon has been a roller coaster.
Nairn says she feels like she’s in survival mode. “This whole process has been really scary as an individual but then if you own a business, have a family and kids and employees – you want them to have a job to come back to. It’s hustle mode, really,” she says.
Merchav agrees it’s been a struggle but notes that Nairn has been a huge source of support to her, saying, “As a small business owner the thing that got my business partner and I through was just each other.”
The business partners are also best friends who met when they were in their 20s, both working at José Eber in Beverly Hills. Since then, the service industry has had its ups and downs, but neither thought they’d ever experience something like a pandemic.
“We can’t operate unless we physically touch people,” says Merchav, “so for us to be shut down there were no adjustments we could make.”
When the first closure was lifted back in June, Merchav and Nairn knew they would need to greatly adjust the salon experience for the safety of their customers and employees. “We took a couple weeks after they said we could reopen so we could understand how we were going to do this,” says Merchav.
Nairn says she was really nervous to reopen with all the new protocols because when people go into a higher end salon, they expect an upscale experience. “We usually serve champagne and snacks, have magazines,” says Nairn. “You want to give people the whole treatment. Now we’re taking temperatures, handing out health questionnaires and we don’t have a waiting area right now – it’s been so different,” she says.
When they temporarily reopened, Nairn says her first day back was a lot better than she expected. “Clients were just happy to come in and get their hair done and they didn’t care what they had to do to get it done! Once you get through that first moment of change you make it work and you just go with it,” she says.
For Merchav, this time period has been one of self-reflection and a chance to take inventory of her inner resources. “As women, we can multitask. I feel like a lot of my brain is very masculine when it comes to business and things like that.” But she says going from being a business owner with 20 employees to being her child’s school teacher was a wild ride. “It was a lot to wrap my brain around but I can definitely tell you at the end of all of it … my daughter and I flipped a new page in our relationship and I value that time so much that I’ve decided to come back to work less.”
Both Merchav and Nairn agree it’s difficult to know what the future holds for their business, but luckily, they had the foresight when they started their business to put six month’s-worth of finances away for a rainy day.
“I feel like when you have everything to lose, when you’re putting every single penny you have for yourself and your child with nothing to fall back on, you have to,” says Merchav. “As a woman and a mother, you want to make sure you do things the smart way so that you’re protected in some manner, otherwise, I don’t think I’d sleep at night.”