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St. John's region barbershops decided to close before CMO’s orders

Husband and wife, Justin and Brittany Penney, are the owners of the Mount Pearl location of the franchise Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop. On March 17, concerned for the health and safety of their staff and their customers, they voluntarily decided to close until further notice. -Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Husband and wife, Justin and Brittany Penney, are the owners of the Mount Pearl location of the franchise Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop. On March 17, concerned for the health and safety of their staff and their customers, they voluntarily decided to close until further notice. -Andrew Waterman/The Telegram -

Citing concern for health and safety of employees, customers, Fogtown and Tommy Gun's got ahead of mandated closures

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —
 


The television sets inside Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop are often on the news channels, husband and wife franchisees, Justin and Brittany Penney, said.

As health authorities and professionals across the country continued to issue statements on social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the concern of the nine-chair barbershop’s employees and customers became increasingly evident.

“Staying six feet from each other, within our industry, it’s impossible to practice social distancing,” Brittany said. “We didn’t feel like we were protecting our (employees and customers) by opening the doors.”


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Haircuts and hot shaves, amongst other services, are how they and their employees make a living. To take that away was not easy.

“It was extremely difficult,” Justin said. “We’re a new business. It hurts us quite a bit.”

They’ve been open for just short of a year and so far, they’ve been doing well.

Around March 10, however, they started to notice a steady decline in sales. But when the possibility of government-mandated closures entered the equation, as states of emergency have been put in place in both British Columbia and Ontario, Justin says people began showing up again.

“(There was) some urgency in people and we noticed that we started to increase quite a bit,” Justin said. “People anticipating that we were going to close eventually, so they were kind of rushing in to get a cut.”

Ultimately, the decision was made between franchisees and corporate to voluntarily shut down operations until further notice.

“We couldn’t hit our obligations with public health and you gotta look long term here,” Justin says.

While they believe this was the right thing to do, Brittany says there is certainly an amount of stress that comes along with the decision.

“We’re still on the hook for our rent and stuff like that,” she said.

“(But) it’s better to rip the Band Aid off, in our case, and take care of our employees, let the dust settle, and then we’ll worry about the rest later.”


COVID-19 update from the Tommy Gun’s Team @ Canada

Posted by Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

On Wednesday, March 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced billions of dollars in financial aid for Canadians. This includes $55 billion in tax deferrals for businesses and households.

As the couple tells The Telegram over the phone about how they felt they were stuck between a rock and a hard place, little squeaks and cooing could be heard intermittently through the receiver.

“We have a five-and-a-half-month-old baby,” Brittany said, laughing as her noises are mentioned. “Her name is Eliza-Jean, so she goes by EJ.”

Justin says EJ tells them their sanitizing procedures are super important.

On March 23, a week after the Penney’s decided to close, as the number of new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 rose, new orders were also put in place.

“Effective immediately, I am ordering additional business closures,” chief medical officer (CMO), Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said at the time. “Personal service establishments, including spas, aesthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons.”


Concerned for the health and safety of their customers and their employees, business partners Chris Evans and Mackenzie Geehan of Fogtown Barber and Shop, decided to shut down operations until further notice. -Submitted
Concerned for the health and safety of their customers and their employees, business partners Chris Evans and Mackenzie Geehan of Fogtown Barber and Shop, decided to shut down operations until further notice. -Submitted

Chris Evans and Mackenzie Geehan, the business partners behind Fogtown Barber and Shop in downtown St. John's, shut down operations last week as well.

They spoke to The Telegram through email, and said the decision to close was “an extremely difficult decision that involved a sleepless night, stress dry-heaving, and frank conversations with all the staff.”

Like Tommy Gun’s, the decision was made before the order from the CMO.

“We didn’t want to close, we knew we didn’t have to by law, but we felt in our hearts it had to be done for the overall good of our community,” they wrote.

Financially, they say being closed is going to put them in a bad way. However, they’ve started an online sale of Fogtown merchandise, with contactless drop off and it is getting good support, they say.

And while their employees are stressed, they understood the decision and were supportive.

“They want to get back to work as soon as it is appropriate,” Evans and Geehan say. “They are making the best of a bad situation, like everybody else hopefully is.

“We’re feeling positive and creative; we know in this won’t last forever and we’re making plans on how to adapt to a changed landscape. As always, we plan to hit the ground running.”

Twitter: @AndrewLWaterman


In these troubled times it seems that being proactive -- taking precautions and making sacrifices -- could certainly help flatten the curve and lessen the COVID-19 impact in our community. For this reason we're choosing to stay closed for the rest of the week. When things calm down, and we feel our protocol does everything possible to ensure the safety of our staff, clients, and greater community, we'll get back to work. We hope to serve as an example that sacrificing now can lesson suffering for all later, but no judgement on those who choose to do otherwise; we know how hard these decisions are and we're all in this together. As always: health before haircuts, be well, and we hope to see you soon. #fogtown #barber #nfld #cleancutsdirtymouths

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