By Celina Colby

For Brookline colorist and hairstylist Stephen Mahoney, reopening for business at Eve Michael Salon on Beacon Street took a little more effort than just dusting off the chairs and restocking on hand sanitizer.

Okay, a lot more.

Mahoney took a former storage space in the basement of the salon and turned it into a private styling studio. He pulled everything out of the room, cleaned the space, painted the ceilings and walls, installed new lighting, and set up a new workspace. “I built a COVID cutting room basically,” he laughs. “My clients can come in the backdoor, go downstairs and go right in the room and they don’t have to be around anybody.”

Additionally, Mahoney had to stock up on products to keep the space properly supplied and sanitized. He says he had to go to half a dozen stores in New Hampshire to acquire everything as other salons rushed to prepare for opening as well. With these new measures, a haircut previously slated for 30 or 40 minutes takes an hour and a half with all the extra steps and cleaning involved. “It’s definitely changed my business for sure. I work twice as hard and make a little less money,” he says.

But it’s not all bad news on this side of COVID-19. Mahoney’s clients, many of whom are older, have appreciated his efforts to keep them safe and isolated from others. He’s even done a few house calls for longtime clients, and word of his dedication has spread. “I’ve gotten probably 10 or 12 new clients in the past week and a half,” he says. “From the first day we went back I was booked solid.”

In the upstairs area of the salon, changes have also been honored. Only three stylists work in the space at a time. Mahoney estimated their chairs are a good 10 feet or more away from each other and the sinks are at least eight feet apart. Everyone wears masks and stations are cleaned between every client.

Mahoney’s business may have changed but his attitude certainly hasn’t. The colorist exudes energy and enthusiasm for the new challenge. Some of the changes will likely live on beyond the COVID-19 mandates. He says he plans to stay in the downstairs space permanently. “My clients seem to like it. I’m actually going to install a sink down there so my clients won’t have to leave at all.”

Pandemic protocols may not last forever, but you can’t put a price on privacy.