Picture this: it’s a beautiful spring morning, you’re walking down the bustling downtown streets, the sun is shining on your face, and the birds are chirping. To your left, you notice the flowers in the planter blooming. You look to your right, wave to your barber through the window of the shop where you get your hair cut. Every barber’s chair in the shop is full, everyone is smiling.
It may feel like a dream, but this is the reality for the team at SAINT, located in Winnipeg, Canada. The shop keeps the historic Exchange District alive, a fitting place for this moment in history, as they are one of the first shops in North America to open back up after the COVID-19 quarantine.
I sat down with my good friend and SAINT owner, Scott “Famos” Ramos to shed light on what it’s like to go back to the barbershop.
The following transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How does it feel to be back?
I almost felt bad that we got to reopen before everyone [else]. There’s a part of me that wants that so bad for everyone, but I was also like that we get this green light. As different as it is, it’s still the same for us. We don’t have to wear masks, but it’s still important to. It’s hard for me to feel normal, even just breathing through my mask… I’ll wear my gloves and I’ll ask my clients would you like me to wear a mask or not, and I’m more cautious. Like I won’t stand in front of them, I kind of stand to the side and shape their beard. Other than that, besides not all nine chairs being filled – we just have five… everyone’s so excited to be back. Overall, it’s been two weeks and it’s been amazing.
I feel like for me, with the mask I’m less inclined to speak, which was one of the main things I felt like was going to change. You can see people’s emotions in their eyes but it’s hard to have a conversation or connection when there’s something literally covering your mouth. Honestly, the first day I was shocked at how many people came in without masks on, but it’s nice to see that people aren’t fearful coming into the space. Especially when we literally touch other people.
Ya for sure, but we’re also in a city where we don’t have that many cases so we feel that freedom. I just feel like New York, for example, their cases are absolutely insane. If it was like that, of course I’d be covered like crazy. Because it’s like I don’t want to catch nothing and I don’t want to give my clients something, so it’s like you have to be cautious. [We’ve been] given the freedom to not wear masks and just have it feel like our shop again – it’s almost too good to be true. I think of that and it kind of scares me. What if no one wears masks ever. I try to wear them but, like, I don’t want to be scared too.
Do you feel like the experience is different for clients that come in with the masks, like in terms of your connection with them?
Not at all, at the end of the day you can still hear them and they’re wearing it for a reason. It’s literally just a little string around the ear so when you fold it down, [the mask] just gets a little loose. As soon as the hair touches it, you just blow dry it off.
“I’m gonna sacrifice [my] time behind the chair so we give opportunity to other barbers.”
Do you feel like there were any challenges?
I mean, the challenges are obviously I want everyone at the shop just back behind the chair. We have a system where we have some [barbers] on commission, some people on rent, some hourly. We’re only allowed to have ten people in the building at once… the difficult thing was to schedule and make sure we honor the hours the [barbers] used to get.
I’m gonna sacrifice time behind the chair so we give opportunity for other barbers. My clients have been damn near cut in half, it’s like a big pay cut on my end, especially not making the money I used to, going on all these trips. This time off I realized it’s not about the money. Yes, I’m making less and I raised my prices respectfully, but people are understanding and they have money to spend right now because they haven’t gotten a haircut in so long.
I think from our standpoint it’s different, because we weren’t making our money the way we usually do in the day-to-day. It’s like we had this time away but there’s a lot of people in the world still working, so I’m sure their experience differs widely.
Ya, I’ve got some clients that are doctors and the suicide rate went up. It makes me think… of course, it’s normal to be stressed but we’re so fortunate that we’re even able to go back to work. Some people’s jobs are completely gone. But for our industry – we’re good. Even the homies in LA can’t open till August, but they’ll be able to cut hair again. That time will come. Some people completely lost their well-being. Every time I catch myself complaining about the shop or my life, I’m just like man we’re blessed.
Attitude of gratitude – I love that. What would you say the energy with your clients is like? Because there’s such a wide range of emotions for people over what’s happening.
Going back to what you were saying, I thought people were just going to talk about their hardships. But everyone’s just hype like, “Aw man, I’ve missed you… Charge me whatever… I always liked getting a haircut, but I took that for granted.” Overall the energy’s been great. You feel it in the shop, it’s beautiful. I haven’t really heard anything too sad. People expressing how they feel is a big part of our job, we take that on. Pre-Coronavirus we took it on regardless.
On a barbershop and industry level, how do you feel like everything has affected the future?
As a shop owner, it’s how many chairs can I fit in this motherf***er. Taking less clients per day obviously affects the money, but personally, [I feel] shit is back to normal. Maybe that’s just something I keep telling myself, because I know how twisted the world is. But when has it not been? A lot of people are just now realizing it.
As for an industry level, it all started behind the chair. The whole traveling and educating were just a huge bonus to what we already do. So when I think of huge hair shows, with thousands of people – some of the biggest shows in the world – I’m coming to terms with [the fact] that that probably won’t happen for a long time. But at the end of the day, that’s fine – ’cause I still have my shop, I still cut hair, and that’s the root.
Photos courtesy of Saint and Thugwife.
To keep up-to-date on Scott’s business and pleasure, you can follow him here.