“We essentially closed because we used all the operating capital we had available,” said Jonathan Carver, who owned the Clarendon blow dry bar for the past two years, and closed it on Aug. 2.
Carver said the salon simply had more more costs — including the high rent in a prime shopping area — than it had revenue from the blowouts. The salon scraped by before COVID-19, but could not recover with the slow reopening rate mandated by the state, he said.
“There’s only so much people are willing to pay for wash, dry and style. It was a very simple service. You can’t charge $300 for that. I think it would have done better in a cheaper location,” said Carver. “I had really good employees and most of them were loyal. There was no way I was going to be able to pay them well and pay the rent.”
Kaleemah Woodward, a Cherry employee since the Clarendon location opened in 2014, says she has been dealing with confused and disappointed clients in the wake of the closure.
“People had over 40 blow dries left on their account and have no way to get that money back,” Woodward said. “I have the frustration of not having answers for them.”
Cherry charged $150 for four monthly blow dries. She said people were desperate to get the money refunded but have had no luck. That’s because there is simply no money to pay customers back, Carver said.
“If [customers] tried to get money out of the franchise, they could force it into bankruptcy, but it would cost more in legal fees because the franchise has no money,” he said.
Woodward said Cherry Blow Dry’s corporate office owns the lease until 2025, but is looking to sell to a local business owner.
Patrons aren’t the only ones out of luck — the employees are also in a tricky situation, as many don’t have cosmetology licenses, according to Woodward.
In 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam passed a law in Virginia allowing unlicensed stylists to work at salons as long as they didn’t permanently alter hair. That’s fine for blow dries, but not for more involved services, which means that many Cherry employees either have to get their cosmetology licenses or are faced with limited work opportunities.
Woodward is now freelancing and taking donations as she works to earn her cosmetology license. She aims to set up a studio in her apartment, offering the same deal Cherry did: $150 for four blowouts a month.
The closure also cuts deep for the stylist and for loyal customers.
“A piece of my identity is kind of gone,” she said.
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