It’s been nearly three months since Salon Gatto closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I made the difficult decision to close the salon on March 15th ahead of the state’s order,” Christine Gatto, owner of Salon Gatto recalls. “I was losing sleep over it.” Roughly 48 hours before the official state shutdown was announced, Gatto had already made up her mind to close down her salon for the health and safety of her employees and clients.
Salon Gatto, currently rated the top salon on Yelp, has been the luxury hair destination of Hoboken for the past five years. Salon Gatto houses 11 highly educated and talented stylists specializing in a range of areas from color to styling.
Throughout the past three months, Gatto experienced critical hardships both financially and personally. Like many small business owners, juggling the stress of paying overhead costs with an absence of income and ensuring job security for employees were just a couple of her major challenges. However, Gatto emphasized that her main stress concerned the personal well-being of her team. Forced away from the chair, stylists across the country were experiencing a loss of purpose, individuality and connection. “Their craft was taken away from them and no one knew exactly how long it was going to be. As a salon owner, I think that was the hardest part for me.”
With that in mind, Gatto made an initiative to connect with her team every week. They participated in creative and wellness challenges, home scavenger hunts and laughed through virtual happy hours. They were constantly sharing new ways to practice and learn about their craft during their time in isolation. “I really felt, as the leader, my purpose during the pandemic was to keep them inspired, motivated and provide a positive outlet amid the negativity around us all.”
Gatto also found resources through the Kao Salon Division that connected her with a community of salon owners across the country. “I attended Zoom calls with other salon owners throughout the U.S. where we discussed ways to manage our businesses and teams through the situation. That was really great because sometimes as a leader, you’re always trying to inspire your team, but you’re sitting in a different chair. It was really nice to connect with other business owners.”
Then on June 1, Governor Murphy finally announced that hair salons and barbershops could reopen as early as June 22. After months of anxiously waiting to hear the announcement, Gatto was beyond ecstatic. While she wanted to share her plans for reopening immediately, she decided to remain silent and put her plans on a brief pause as the country was in the midst of nationwide protests following the tragedy of George Floyd.
Salon Gatto will officially reopen on Monday, June 22. In preparation for reopening, new safety measures will be implemented such as barriers between styling stations, temperature checks and strict sanitation procedures. “The safety of Gatto’s clients and team members will have my full attention and focus as we reopen. We’re going to make sure that everyone feels safe, confident and comfortable coming to Gatto.”
While Gatto plans to follow the state guidelines, she is also making accommodations to provide a signature Salon Gatto luxury experience under the new norms. “People are used to a unique and special experience visiting Gatto and I want to continue that level of standard reopening under the safety guidelines. We’ll host guests in our beautiful outdoor space where they can enjoy our signature infused water, chilled rosé and other beverages while relaxing and getting fresh air.”
For Gatto and other salon owners across the country, it’s been a long and emotionally taxing journey. From shutting down abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic to reopening in the wake of political turmoil and social change, Gatto has experienced every emotion imaginable, but the main feeling she consistently expressed was gratitude with a renewed appreciation for her work. “It really put things into perspective. We’re thankful for the place we hold with our clients and the community. We love making people look and feel great, and now coming back into it is so beautiful.”