Arlington salon owner ‘devastated’ Northern Va. may not be included in Phase 1 reopening

An Arlington salon owner’s hopes of opening were dashed after the governor said the coronavirus health emergency situation looks different in Northern Virginia, and more decisions would need to be made regarding the first phase of reopening in the region.

Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday during a news conference that he would provide more information Wednesday during a briefing wherein Northern Virginia officials would be present.

Northern Virginia represents 2.5 million people — nearly one-third of Virginia’s population, and half the commonwealth’s coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The news was a blow for Irma Wheeler, who owns Illusions of Shirlington on Campbell Avenue.

“We were all ready to open Saturday,” Wheeler said.

When Northam announced last week that Phase 1 could start no sooner than Friday, Wheeler said she has been getting ready, ordering custom-made face shields for her staff, having face masks and putting up dividers at her salon.

Wheeler said she had an orientation meeting Monday with everyone in the salon to discuss guidelines on what to do and how to conduct business in a way that keeps clients and staff safe, such as more time between appointments, disinfecting chairs and keeping clients outside with their heads covered so they would not be inside the salon.

“We went ahead and opened the books and started taking appointments,” she said, as well as advertising on social media and on the salon’s website. Immediately the calls started coming, and appointments were booked for the whole week.

Now she’s had to hire people again to cancel the appointments, spending more money when her business has been closed for several weeks.

Illusions of Shirlington salon owner on reopening her Northern Virginia business

“We are devastated. Totally devastated. We are ready. We are taking every precaution,” even making sure that there would be no more than 10 people, including staff, at a time inside the salon, Wheeler said.

Wheeler believes that Northam is not taking into account business owners who are responsible and who have taken every precaution to be able to open.

“It’s just not fair, at the last minute, when he announced it,” Wheeler said.

“I have no doubt that if we take every precaution — people go to the grocery stores, people go to the post office — if we take every precaution, we can keep our staff and our guests healthy. We have taken every single one of them,” Wheeler said, including ordering gallons of disinfectant and getting alcohol from Pennsylvania, in addition to the custom face shields.

“I have got a guy making all our shields. All our shields are being custom made because we cannot get them on the internet,” she said.

The salon’s customers have been every understanding about the cancellations, Wheeler said. “They’re listening to the news, and they know that it’s not us doing it.”

“We’re trying to respect the law and also the health of everybody … I cried this morning when I heard the news,” Wheeler said. “What about us who are responsible?”

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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