Tye Featherstone is the owner and franchisor of The Great American Barbershop.
Written by Frank Lopez
While the movement to allow businesses to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic has been lampooned as the selfish desire to get a haircut, Tye Featherstone, founder of The Great American Barbershop, said barber, beauty and nail salons offer more than what is on the surface.
“Barbers, and salons, and nail people — we don’t just cut hair, do nails and do barbering work,” Featherstone said. “We are actually first responders when it comes to the medical needs of our clients.”
Featherstone said that when a majority of people first find out about a mole or other cancerous item on their head, it’s usually spotted by a barber, who then advises the customer to consult with a doctor.
Many diabetic patients have standing appointments with their nail technicians to make sure there is adequate blood flow to the feet and to check for fungal infections.
Featherstone said that barbers and hair stylists go to school to train in disease and infection control, and less in actual hair cutting, with the point of a state licensing board to control disease and infection.
The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology has threatened disciplinary action on licensed hair, nail and beauty salons that do not follow the governor’s shutdown orders.
“We have heard of businesses disregarding the stay at home orders. If businesses continue to put public health and safety at risk by not following the state and local shelter in place orders, and if circumstances warrant it, the Board may pursue disciplinary action against their license. This will not be taken lightly,” stated a letter from the board earlier this month.
Featherstone is leading a petition effort directed at Gov. Gavin Newsom asserting the cosmetology industry might be the best trained for health protocols aside from medical professionals.
“As Board Certified Licensees, we are highly trained with 1500 or more hours, devoted mostly to disease and infection control as mandated by the CDC guidelines,” Featherstone’s letter read. “Outside of the medical field, no industry is more trained or knowledgeable in this practice — not police, fire, military, and certainly not dog groomers. It is outrageous that grooming a dog is considered essential and the grooming of a human is not.”
As of Tuesday, about 4,200 people have signed the online petition, with a goal of reaching 5,000.
Unlike most barber and beauty shop owners who work with stylists on a contract basis, Great American Barbershop barbers are direct employees at the seven locations in California, including two in Clovis, two in Fresno and one in Visalia. As such, they are eligible for unemployment benefits that independent contractors are not.
Featherstone said he applied for government loans related to COVID-19, but has not been approved in the first rounds of funding.
With all of the Great American Barbershop locations forced to close, Featherstone is having different experiences with his landlord when it comes to rent, and he is just waiting to be able to get back to business.
The City of Parlier was one of the first towns in the state to re-open its barbershops and hair salons, despite the governor’s orders. It is also illegal to offer licensed hair or nail services outside of a licensed establishment.
“Why this particular industry has been singled-out, I think it’s just the lack of knowledge in what it is that we do, and what first response medical items that we are providing,” Featherstone said.