Like many salons around the country, Faatemah Ampey's The SuiteSpot SalonSpa made it through the COVID-19 shutdown, and was preparing to open Monday, June 1, when it was met with riots in the streets of Minneapolis over the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after he was handcuffed and restrained, laying face down on a city street, and a police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes.
Each night as the riots raged on, Ampey’s salon and many other businesses on her block of Lake Street were vandalized. A single mom, Ampey comforted her children while helicopters flew overhead and the National Guard marched through the streets. She and her neighbors spent the mornings cleaning up glass and painting over graffiti.
In additional to being a salon owner and beauty influencer, Ampey is a reality star from the Bravo series Shear Genius. In an effort to show her followers a glimpse of her new reality, Ampey posted a Facebook Live on May 30, giving viewers a video tour of the destruction throughout her neighborhood:
“I made this video to show what the community looks like when it’s working together. I understand I will say things that are conflicting about the protest—I want justice for George and I want peace in my city. I want everything we believe we are fighting for, but this is not the way to do that,” she explains. “I’m getting emotional because everyone here has worked so hard—we are all small business owners and many of us are minority-owned businesses. If you are a protester who is peaceful, I applaud that. But I’m going 'live' to say, 'Stay home, there has to be a better way.' I’ve seen real, live military trucks coming in today and this is about to get really dangerous.
"I’m a cash start-up business, a single mom who has not been working for eight weeks because of the pandemic. Our dreams are being destroyed,” she continues. “I cry for George, I cry for justice and I cry for peace, but right now I’m crying for my community and crying for the dreams that have been destroyed that will take years to rebuild. I know racism is real, I know it’s alive and it’s thriving, but I feel there is a space where we can have courageous conversations and share our dialogue and help people understand our experience instead of shattering glass.”
As Ampey and her neighbors worked to clean up their businesses, they also stressed that there are no businesses open in a ten-mile radius because of the looting, and no public transportation available because of the pandemic. “The looting, riots and fires have strategically destroyed key essentials needed for basic living. Gas stations, grocery stores, ATMs, post offices and police stations have been destroyed,” she says. “I am asking that everyone that wants to be a beacon for the community to help restore what has been lost meet me today with donations.”
To date, Ampey and her neighbors have collected and distributed 500 bags of donated items to people in her neighborhood who are without basic essentials.
Also in Minneapolis, David Wagner owner of JUUT Salon Spas and the Intoto Salon by JUUT boarded up the windows of its Intoto Salon and posted the following to social media: “We are deeply saddened by the murder of George Floyd and are proud of our community for enacting change and justice. Our mission states that we believe in changing the world through kindness. Amidst much emotion, we are humbled by the kindness and generosity we’ve witnessed between neighbors and community members looking out for one another, donating essential items and coming together to clean up. We will move forward to rebuild and do better.”
As both peaceful protests and violent rioting swept across the nation, many salons that were just reopening following months of shutdown, found themselves boarding their windows, delaying their openings and dealing with damage.
In Los Angeles, looters were trying to break in the front glass door of Planet Salon on Melrose Avenue when they were interrupted by security guards hired by the Fred Segal store next door. The salon, owned by Ginger Boyle, suffered etched glass, graffiti and $8,000 worth of damage to the front door where the vandals used a sledgehammer in an attempt to get in. While the looters screwed up the door frame, no interior destruction was done.
On May 31, Boyle’s husband Robert Lynden posted: “I am very much in favor of peaceful protests, but what I saw on the street this morning is nothing short of destruction. Melrose, Beverly, Farifax and nearby streets were affected….this is all after we spent two months preparing to reopen Planet Salon during the pandemic.”
Boyle adds: “We were definitely blessed because the Ralph Lauren store across the street and a nearby CBD store were gutted. The worst part for us is that it scares the staff just as we were ready to reopen. We were doing training this week to go over new safety and sanitation protocol, with plans to reopen this Saturday—but now we’re going to put it off at least another week.
“The goodwill from people who showed up to help us has just been amazing. There was a father and his two kids helping to take graffiti off our windows—it just brought tears to my eye,” says Boyle. “Many of our clients are local business owners and to help ease the stress, I’m going to invite them in this week while we are training to enjoy some complimentary services. I also took same cash to the security guards, offereing to send them to a nice dinner.”
In Atlanta, the shopping complex where Jamison Shaw is housed was hit hard by looters, but Owner Candy Shaw feels blessed. “Nineteen of the 24 businesses were hit, but we were spared," she reports. “We think that’s because we have a sign that says we’re a ‘cashless establishment’ on our front door. Our windows are boarded up now--there is looting all over Buckhead area.”
June 1 was the first day open for Karen Allen Salon and Spa with two locations in Riverside, California. “Like many salons, we expanded our hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate as many guests as possible with the social distancing limitations,” says Owner Karen Nguyen. “At 8 a.m. we were alerted that there would be a curfew in the area where one of our salons is located and we were scrambling to move appointments around and close early. Later that day, we learned a second curfew was in place for the area where the second salon was located and again, we had to reschedule guests.”
That evening Nguyen had planned a Zoom meeting with her team to review the first day back. During the call, she received a text message that looting was going on in the plaza where one of her salons was located, and she later drove by to check on her salon. “I didn’t get home until after 11 p.m. There was no damage—thank God—because we have really good local law enforcement to protect the businesses. I can’t complain because we are still intact, but there are protests scheduled in our communities over the next week so it's nerve-wracking.”
Gila Rut with three locations down in San Diego opened Friday, May 29, but had to board up one of its locations on the 31st. “Three sides of the salon are windows and we’re keeping it boarded, just unboarding the door in the morning and boarding it up back at night. It looks like a construction project,” says co-owner Keri Davis-Duffy.
Over the past days, Davis-Duffy sat down and wrote personal notes to her team members who are African-American, apologizing for their suffering, expressing that she’s hoping she’s doing things the right way but asking for feedback if she isn’t.
“I’m not a beaten-down type of gal, but I’m so tired,” Davis-Duffy says. “Every day, it’s a new river of challenges to navigate. You go into the salon and there’s so much love and joy and gratitude from our clients and our team members, but as a business owner, you balance that with the anxiety of keeping your team healthy and safe. I pray for a vaccine soon, I pray that the voices that need to be heard are heard. And, I understand the inconveniences I’m going through are on such a small scale compared to what people of color have gone through.”
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