Blunt Yk is among the very few Yellowknife businesses that initially shut down in the pandemic only to reopen and thrive, and a new location and expansion of services has played a central role.
The hair salon went from having no clients after it closed in March, to being at full capacity currently.
“We are completely, fully booked. Most people are booking at least a month in advance,” said owner Olivia Patterson. “And we went from five to eight chairs, added two walk-in barbers and lash and brow technicians.”
Topping off Blunt’s success during the month of its three-year anniversary, the hair salon on Dec. 1 moved into its newly-renovated location on 49 Street, across from Shoppers Drug Mart.
Due to increasing client traffic making its old location in the Bowling Green building feel cramped, Patterson had been contemplating moving her studio for some time.
It’s just a coincidence the move coincided with the pandemic.
“I think it was inevitable. We were always going to expand,” she said of the move. “I just kind of decided to go for it, take a little bit of a risk and go for it.”
The picture looked very different for Blunt in the spring, when all but essential businesses were closed.
Patterson secured some assistance from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency’s Northern Business Relief Fund, but aside from that her only income was from delivering and selling hair products and care kits to her clients. Those revenues didn’t come close to matching what the salon usually earns from hair appointments.
She didn’t have to lay off her staff of stylists because they work for her as independent contractors.
When Blunt reopened in May with new physical distancing measures, the studio’s workflow changed from the old model where one stylist could work on a few clients at once, to working with only one at a time. While that has reduced some of its potential capacity, Patterson estimates that the rise in demand, the four new positions at Blunt and the addition of more chairs translates into about 25 per cent more business.
“I think it’s because people aren’t able to travel out of town to get their hair done anymore and people want to spoil themselves,” she said with a laugh.
The border closure has proven to be an additional mixed blessing in that Blunt has drawn more clientele who, before Covid, typically went south to visit salons.
“I feel like there’s a quite a few people who think that the hair services offered in the (south) are better than the ones you can get in the North, but that’s not true. So it’s kind of forced them to try us,” said Patterson. “I always knew that we were just as good, if not better than a lot of the stylists that people travel down to see. That’s just based on them coming back and having to fix colour corrections from really well-known salons down south. We have a lot of talented stylists here in the North, too.”
As the pandemic rages in southern provinces, and as Alberta announced the closure of most non-essential businesses on Tuesday, the fear of being forced to shut down again lingers in Patterson’s mind.
She hopes that if the NWT has more Covid cases, the number of viral infections can be kept under control so that businesses can stay open.
“We’re doing better than before,” she said. “I hate saying that because I feel bad about the businesses that aren’t doing so well. But for us, it’s been good.”