Local stylists participate in Reopen NC protests

Published 5:24 pm Thursday, April 30, 2020

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For the past three weeks, hundreds of protesters have gathered in Raleigh each Tuesday to protest North Carolina’s statewide stay-at-home order and sweeping business closures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. This week, four local residents were among them.

Traveling to Raleigh on Tuesday with her mother, father-in-law and a coworker, local salon owner Danielle Crosby Wells was among those demanding that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper “Reopen NC.” As owner of Inner Banks Hair Salon in Washington, Wells says closing her shop has created major hardships for her and the six other stylists who rent space there.

“As a business owner, this shutdown has been devastating in so many ways,” Wells said. “So many people have lost substantial amounts of revenue and their own personal income, including myself. Even though the government claims they’re giving you unemployment, I have yet to see a penny or a stimulus check or any help for a PPP loan for my business.”

Salons in North Carolina, along with gyms, massage parlors and tattoo shops, were closed by executive order effective March 25. Since then, Wells has waived rental fees at her salon during the pandemic because it would put additional hardship on her fellow stylists. While not being able to get a haircut is an inconvenience for many, for Wells and her coworkers, that’s their livelihood. For anyone who thinks it’s not essential, Wells disagrees.

“If they weren’t receiving any income, they might have a change in attitude of reopening everything,” Wells said. “Every job is essential and every job matters. People have to work.”

In addition to her own business, Wells says her husband’s business, Pamlico Flooring, has also been impacted by the shutdown. As a licensed cosmetologist, she believes that salon owners are capable of maintaining a sanitary environment to protect the health of their customers. It’s those combined frustrations that led her and her companions to go to Raleigh this week.

“I wanted to have my voice heard, and I wanted to stand up for the people in my industry who have been forced to shut our doors by Gov. Cooper,” Wells said. “It was very peaceful when everybody was at the rally. I didn’t go there to get arrested or break the law. I just wanted to express my right to work.”

While the News & Observer reports Tuesday’s protests were largely peaceful, four individuals were arrested during the rally, including one leader of the Reopen NC movement. Standing opposite of the Reopen NC protest was a counter protest made up of about a dozen healthcare workers, according to the N&O.

“I just want to know what happened to the place I used to call America,” Wells said. “I had a dream and the government shut me down.”