By Lisa Young
Sarah Carlquist took a giant step in December 2019 by purchasing Rocky Mountain Hair Design in Delta. The business had a firm 30-plus year record under previous owner, Stacey Brown.
For Carlquist it was a dream come true, that was until March 20, 2020, when her re-branded Rocky Mountain Hair salon had to close due to COVID-19.
Carlquist said she first heard the shocking news from Gov. Jared Polis and later from DORA (Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies) via email.
“We were all living in the world of not knowing if it would affect us to where we would have to close our doors. It was almost a state of shock,” said the new business owner.
“There was a whole lot of feelings going on at the same time. A lot of it was not knowing about the next few weeks or how long it was going to last and nobody had any direction as to how long this was going to last,” said Carlquist admitting that she shed a few tears during the dark days.
“To be open three months and find out the doors were going to be closed for awhile. It was a little bit overwhelming to say the least. I think it took us a few days to before it fully hit me.”
The unexpected closure was also frightening to the six employees at the salon, some who also had spouses laid-off at the same time affecting the entire family. The popular salon is a commission-based business. Meaning no work, no pay.
After the initial shock subsided, Carlquist reached out to fellow salon owners in Delta looking for answers and support. Her next call was to DORA trying to find out what the parameters were.
“Mainly it was a lot of phone calls locally to each other and there were a lot of calls to the health department asking for clarification,” Carlquist said.
Adding to the frustration was the ongoing confusion from state and county authorities. Different rules and variances from one county to the next exasperated the problem for businesses on a daily basis.
“Trying to figure out where we stood at that time, the county was really good with us as far as letting us know that we had to close down. I was very happy with how they communicated with us at that time.”
As a new owner, Carlquist said it was a struggle finding ways to “not disappoint” her clients as she navigated the COVID-19 maze created by a patchwork of regulations that lacked consistency. She and other business owners wanted a uniformed decision that made sense across the board.
For salon owners the safest bet was to follow the guidelines provided by the licensing agency (DORA). In the competitive world of beauty, salon owners in Delta rose above and worked together.
“As hard as this last year was, there’s some good that’s come out of this whole entire situation even beyond the salons. Before we were shut down the restaurants were affected so, we would offer a discount on services if you brought in a receipt from a restaurant,” said Carlquist, adding it was a matter of helping each other.
Clients bought gift certificates and brought food to stylists and offered personal encouragement. Carlquist reached out to First Colorado National Bank seeking limited financial assistance through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). The funds allowed Carlquist to pay her staff after going four weeks without pay during the six-week closure.
“That was a wonderful program and went so smooth through the bank. I was nervous that it would take a long time to complete the paperwork and to see any funds but they worked with us amazingly well,” Carlquist said, adding that it was a collaborative effort with the banks and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
As a new business owner without prior financial records Carlquist was unable to take advantage of programs that provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“Even though the salon has been here for 31 years, that was my first year of business so, I didn’t have a year before to compare to show an economic loss,” she said, adding that she was unable to take advantage of the Region 10 and Delta County low interest business loans.
Today Carlquist is proud to be open again to the public where she can provide services to her loyal clients. Despite the shutdown, Rocky Mountain Hair finished the year strong with new stylists and clients.
During the closure, Carlquist said she leaned heavily on her dad’s words and trust in the community.
“My dad kept telling me, ‘don’t take it personal, it’s not just you.’ He had to keep reminding me that I didn’t do something wrong, that this wasn’t something personal. it was affecting everybody. One thing with this virus, is that it wasn’t just one industry it was all of us as a whole,” said Carlquist.
“The one thing that kept everybody going is knowing that no matter what, the community had our back and they were going to be back in for those haircuts, they were going to be back in for those services and, knowing that, we knew we would come back from this.”
Thanks to a supportive community and despite a gut punch from the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocky Mountain Hair is open for business!