At Pink and Pretty nail salon in Dorchester, an unusual hush has settled between the powdered pink walls. The nail-shaping drills are not whirring, the pedicure spas are not bubbling and no one is bantering between the empty seats. For owner Dana Bonner, the quiet, hollow shop represents clients she can’t see, income she can't earn and a passion she can’t fulfill.
“It’s really depressing,” said Bonner, who fulfilled her dream of owning a salon several months ago. Along with her mother and business partner Florence “Flo” Taylor, she decided to close the shop a week before Governor Charlie Baker ordered all non-essential businesses shuttered until April 7.
The mandate is the most forceful action yet in Massachusetts' fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic. Turning away the shop’s typical line up of 80-100 weekly customers has been difficult, Bonner told WGBH News in an interview Monday.
“We’re like their nail therapists,” she said of the relationship between nail technicians and clients. “That’s what makes us want to do more ladies’ and gentlemens’ [nails] when they come here.”
Across the state, regular patrons of nail and hair salons found themselves without their services as of noon Tuesday under Baker’s order. In Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood, beauty services like Bonner’s are a significant part of the small business landscape. A WGBH News review found that in Dorchester’s six square miles, 40 nail salons and more than 100 hair salons possess current business certificates with the City of Boston.
Many women and men rely on the typically multicultural salons for self-care and socializing. Some customers are wondering what they’ll do without their normal beauty rituals while the services remain shuttered for the next two weeks.
Florcy Romero, a Chelsea native, commutes from Brooklyn to receive service at Bonner’s salon in Dorchester’s Savin Hill.
“I am loyal to my ‘hood,” she said, explaining her motivation for travelling so far.
Romero, who spoke with WGBH News Tuesday, agreed her typical two-hour nail appointments are about more than looking good.
“Yes, that’s a part of it, but at the end of the day, you’re ‘chopping it up’ with whoever your nail lady is,” Romero said, pointing to conversations about pop culture trends, parties, color palettes and even political movements with a nail technician who shares her astrological sign.
On a recent appointment, Romero requested the words “Land Back” be hand-painted in black and red letters on long, white, coffin-shaped nails. The salon session quickly became a cultural exchange as she explained the phrase's significance to indigenous communities advocating for land reclamation and autonomy. A photo of the design hangs in the salon.
“Now, in Dorchester, my hands are there to say, ‘land back.’ I know people are going to ask what that means, and my nail tech is going to be able to tell them,” she said.
Romero said she’ll likely wait until the shutdown order is lifted to get her nails done again.
In Dorchester’s Codman Square, Charlotte Hatcher said she was worried about the closure of her braiding salon from a financial standpoint.
“I have a good relationship with most of my customers. I will miss them,” she said. “But I can call them and check on how they’re doing.”
Baker’s order, she added, “means I’m not going to make a living and I don’t know what to do.”
The City of Boston has begun a series of surveys to inform its response to the needs of small businesses. According to results from the first survey, about a third of Boston’s small businesses have lost three-quarters of their revenue since public concern over the outbreak has grown.
Hatcher said she’ll abide by state rules and hope the government will assist businesses like hers through the rough patch.
“If the authorities think that we should be safe and stay home, that’s what we’re going to do,” she said. “Can they help us? That’s another thing. It’s very important that they help us if they can.”
Meanwhile, residents like Terina Jackson rushed Monday to get their needed beauty products just before the closings.
“I really want something curly because it’s spring ... but unfortunately, I’m doing box braids,” said Jackson, who purchased products to apply her own long-lasting, low-maintenance hair style. “Who knows how long I’ll be in the house? I don’t want my hair to fall out,” she added with a laugh.