By Luke Gentile
The doors are open at The Focus Point barbershop after months of being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and Deantione Gaines, the owner and operator of the shop, is ready to get back to business.
Located inside the Safeway at 3704 East-West Highway, The Focus Point is a one-chair shop filled with art, music and the rare opportunity to have the entirety of a shop focus on one client.
However, like many other barbershops and salons throughout the city, Gaines had to close his doors when Gov. Larry Hogan’s order shut down all nonessential businesses in late March.
“The biggest effect on the business was mainly just not being able to have a stationary place for people to come to continue to get their services done,” Gaines said. “Definitely had to switch over to doing the mobile barbering thing. That probably was the toughest thing.”
Gaines relied on mobile barbering to keep his business going, and he credits social media with allowing him to get through the experience.
“I survived via social media, via email and via my Squire app. I partner with a company that actually helps send out campaign ads,” he said.
Other stylists did the best they could to keep up, as well.
When her business shut down, Mali Lyons, owner of A Lyonsess Touch, said she felt overwhelmed.
“We were shut down from March 23 to about June 5,” she said. “So I lost all of that revenue that I would have made.”
Her mother also passed away from cancer two days after she was forced to close her doors, and Lyons said she had to stay strong for her children.
“Depression set in,” she said. “I was taking care of two kids by myself and trying to deal with their homeschooling and providing for them. So, that was the adaptation. I didn’t have anybody come into my house due to COVID.”
Lyons said she applied for both a $2,500 grant that the City of Hyattsville made available quarterly and a small business loan to help with expenses. However, she said she received neither.
“I actually applied for the second round [of the grant] because we could apply for four quarters, and they actually ran out of money,” she said. “I didn’t even get the small business loan either, so I don’t know what that was about.”
Gaines said he wasn’t even aware of the grant.
“I didn’t know anything about that,” he said. “All I heard of was pandemic relief and unemployment, which I didn’t qualify for. So, I have been manning my own ship since the beginning of COVID until now.”
Gaines reopened his shop June 1 but said it took a while for a steady business flow to return.
“One thing that I did realize is that there’s really no control we have as barbers in reference to when we can take a client,” he said. “It’s up to the client and their feeling of feeling safe to come outside. That’s what the main struggle was going to be.”
Kenneth Ford, a regular customer of Gaines, said he now feels safe and is glad to be back in a set routine.
“I wasn’t rushing,” he said. “I waited to see how it went for everyone when everybody else came out, and now I’m back on my normal schedule.”
Lyons has also reopened part-time and is taking in-person appointments at her business at 3331 Toledo Terrace.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I transform people’s hair, basically. I’m a hair transformer.”
The Focus Point just celebrated its first year in Hyattsville on Sept. 16. It is open to men, women and children. A regular haircut costs $30 for walk-ins and between $35 and $50 for scheduled calls because Gaines said he can take more time with those appointments.
Gaines believes that the worst has passed and looks forward to business returning to normal with restrictions lifting.
“Clients have to be comfortable coming outside,” he said. “I have to work, regardless, so I’m coming outside, but it’s up to them.”
Luke Gentile is an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.