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Race against the COVID-19 shutdown: Calgary businesses pack in the rush of clients

The new COVID-19 restrictions are about to set in, meaning people are rushing to visit personal and wellness services before the three weeks of closures hit.

Personal and wellness services have to close up shop at 11:59 p.m. Sunday as the new measures announced May 4 kick in.

Some Calgary businesses are overloaded, working to accommodate their clients.

After calling nine Calgary nail salons to asking for comments, Alex Mioc of Rose’s Nails and Spa was the first to respond.

 “I don’t have time for an interview. We are swamped, so incredibly swamped because of the shutdown on Sunday,” Mioc said.

Peony NaturaSpa

Tiang Le with Peony NaturaSpa was able to spare a few minutes between the hustle and estimated that their spa has cared for between 55 to 70 per cent more clients since the new restriction announcement two days ago.

Le said she and her coworkers are worried due to the risk of COVID-19 at work but are happy for the business. The patterns of closing and reopening have brought financial strain.

According to the Government of Canada website, personal services have lost just shy of 60 per cent of revenue, the third most significant loss after accommodation and food (more than 75 per cent), and arts, entertainment and recreation (nearly 75 per cent).

“Sometimes it’s so difficult. We spend so much money to close, to work again, to follow up with the rules,” Le said.

“We want to go up again before the summer. With the nail salon, after September, business gets very slow.”

The first lockdown of non-essential businesses was March 27, 2020, lifting to stage one on May 14 and then stage two on June 12. After cases rose again, another lockdown followed on December 8, 2020.

Fitness buffs hit hard, too

Retrieved from Urban Athlete’s website

Kohl Kehler is one of the owners of Urban Athlete Fitness Studio. Kehler said that for his team, uncertainty is among the most challenging factors of reopening and closing.

“We spent resources on doing outdoor workouts, and then two days later, they’re saying, ‘Well, now there’s going to be more restrictions.’ Which is fine if that’s what we need to do,” he said.

“We’ve been doing this for 13, 14 months. It would have been nice to have more notice.”

Just like many other businesses, the Urban Athlete staff has lost a lot of working hours with clients. Kehler said they try to keep employees busy with tasks such as sanitization. Thankfully, trainers can work virtually to look after their clients.

“The staff takes a hard hit anytime we go through these shutdowns,” he said.

“You roll with it one punch at a time. Or, one lockdown at a time.”

Time to get creative

Urban Athlete began training clients outside a month ago when cases began rising again. They moved some equipment and have invested in shelters and rubber matting. Even if personal training will no longer be allowed, Kehler said they hope to continue allowing people to do their workouts outside using Urban Athlete equipment while following COVID-19 rules.

“As of Sunday, we’re not sure exactly what will happen,” he said.

Regardless of the outcomes, Kehler appreciates their customer’s choice of local businesses.

“Your small business owners may not have had the same access to government lending like some of the big corporations,” he said.

The Government of Canada website said Budget 2021 proposes to extend the wage subsidy, rent subsidy, and Lockdown Support until September 25, 2021.

Hairy situation

Hair salons seem to be the busiest businesses of all. With each call to different salons, sounds of hair dryers and rushed chatter could be heard. Everyone who picks up the phone has the same answer regarding time for an interview, and that is that they have none. 

Amir Zaki owns Salon 101 and spared one quick comment.

“We are so swamped. Everybody’s trying to get in because they don’t know if the shutdown will be for three weeks or longer,” he said.

“I’m not mad about the restrictions though—better safe than sorry.”