Photos by Nolan Schmidt
On Wednesday, August 12, the North Dakota Department of Commerce opened the application period for the Economic Resiliency Grant program. The grant was designed to provide funding to companies for business improvements to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection and instill consumer confidence in the marketplace. One of the companies that submitted an application for the program was Men’s Hair Co., a haircut and grooming company with locations in Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Bismarck and Grand Forks.
Men’s Hair Co. volunteered to close its doors on March 20, 2020, at the onset of the pandemic. On the 27th, Governor Doug Burgum put an executive order in place to close all salons, the order lasted until May 4. Men’s Hair Co. reopened on May 11.
“We took that extra week because we wanted to reassure our team of our new process,” said Co-Owner Troy Rinehardt. “We also wanted to disinfect our stores from top to bottom, including the floors.”
With the guidance of contact tracing we have yet had a transmission from a customer to stylist, or stylists to stylists, or stylists to customer,” said Rinehardt. “That’s something that we at men’s hair companies are very proud of.”
Q & A
What was the process like trying to get the grant?
The process was pretty smooth, given how fast they had to come up with it, how fast they processed it and how fast the funds got placed out. The Department of Commerce had PowerPoints that detailed expectations and what kinds of expenses could be used for reimbursement. It was time-consuming because we had a lot of receipts instead of quotes for future purchases. The Department of Commerce did a phenomenal job.
What did you use the grant for?
Over 60 percent of our total funds were used to reimburse purchases. When we reopened, we didn’t hold back on trying to make it as safe as possible for our staff and our customers. If you don’t have a staff that feels safe coming back to work, it’s going to be tough to reopen. The same goes for the customers. We took a lot of the steps to make our business as safe as possible without knowing that this grant was going to be available.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was really difficult to get your hands on masks, disinfectants and face shields. Thankfully, we were able to use the shutdown to get our hands on all of those things. Now, we have face masks available for staff and customers. We’ve also done little things like adding soap dispensers to each station so that our employees can wash their hands between each client. Our store layouts were already built for social distancing with semi-private stations and with the ERG Grant we added plexiglass guards between each of our stations and in front of our receptionists to give our customers and team a safe environment.
Because of the grant, we were able to stock up on disinfectant because we go through so much each month due to our new cleaning process. We were also able to upgrade our POS system to include contactless payment. We are extremely grateful for this grant but just as grateful to be a small family-owned business in North Dakota!
How many of those steps that you took were required?
The Board of Cosmetology, pre-pandemic, required us to have a sanitary environment but the state added to that expectation which we embraced. Some of the requirements to reopen were waiting areas to have physical distancing. Our team was required to wear masks, wash hands between clients and develop a cleaning process that would be more in-depth after each client. We also added more time to each appointment to allow our team time to complete their services and properly disinfect all surfaces that a customer comes in contact with. We also take temperatures of each team member prior to clocking in as well as each client.
So not knowing that you’re going to get reimbursed, why was it so important to you to take those extra steps?
Safety period. We wanted to be the safest in the industry. We took it as seriously as we could and recognized early on that our team and customers needed to feel safe in order for our team to come back to work and our customers to patron us!