Rhonda Graham poses beside a vacant salon chair on May 30. Graham has decided not to re-open the bricks and mortar Cedar & Rose studio, but said she will be available for ensuite bookings. (Nora O’Malley photo)

End of an Era: Tofino hair studio closes shop

“We were getting excited to start ramping up and then all of sudden we had to close our doors.”

After 15 years of cutting hair and beautifying brides, Tofino business owner Rhonda Graham will not be re-opening her lifestyle salon Cedar & Rose.

Graham said the realities she is now faced with due to the new regulations and guidelines brought on by COVID-19 makes it “feel impossible to make ends meet.”

“I’m just done struggling to be honest. When the pandemic started, I knew this was probably going to be the end of my business,” said Graham, who had re-branded her beauty parlour as Cedar & Rose in the fall.

On April 16, 2020, the office of the provincial health officer ordered all personal services establishments to close. On May 19, the province cancelled that Order. WorkSafe BC has since asked employers to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan that can be publicly displayed on their worksite.

Some COVID-19 Safety Protocols for hairstylists and barbers include: wearing a face mask, reducing occupancy to ensure adequate physical distancing, minimizing sharing tools (e.g. shears, irons, nail clippers, gowns, etc.), and using single-use items, such as single use make-up applicators.

“Only being able to operate at a smaller capacity that we are used to just to give space and for cleaning purposes, it would take a lot to recoup what we have lost,” said Graham.

What’s more, Graham told the Westerly she lost 90 per cent of her bridal bookings for summer 2020. During Tofino’s busy summer months, Graham and her team of beauticians would normally have had an appointment with a bride almost every day.

“We rely on [the wedding industry] to get us through the winter months. Even when we do have a super successful busy summer it’s still a bit of a struggle through the winter,” she said, adding the timing of the early spring pandemic closures was devastating.

“We were getting excited to start ramping up and then all of sudden we had to close our doors,” she said.

Over the weekend on May 30 and 31, Graham held a big liquidation sale to offload the furniture, décor and remaining product within her shop.

“This has been such a surreal process and I’ll forever have gratitude for the support of this community,” she said.

One of her most memorable clients was Peggy Greig who passed away a few years ago.

“Up until she had to leave Tofino because she turned 100 and had to go to a home, I did her hair at least once a month if not more,” Graham recalls.

She went on to express her love and appreciation for being able to experience so many first haircuts, braiding the locks of flower girls, and for all the fun, family appointments over the years.

Graham leased the same building at the Outside Break (Beaches) shopping area for 15 years. Her neighbours included some of the Coast’s most famous establishments like the Tofitian, Chocolate Tofino and Tacofino Cantina. She notes the high overhead at the Outside Break made it hard for her to get ahead, and that she had been trying to sell her salon even before the pandemic struck.

“It supported an amazing lifestyle, but it was also a struggle. Having a business in Tofino is a dream, but it’s also so challenging. It’s sort of like a passion project and it was exactly that,” she said.

Simplifying and being mobile is the way of the future, Graham adds.

“I’m excited for what’s coming. I’m excited to see what’s going to get in the space next and what I’m going to do next. I’m being open to new opportunities,” she said.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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READ: Low profits, few customers in post-pandemic recovery says B.C. business survey

READ: Pandemic-related restaurant closures take an emotional and financial toll

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