As a member of the salon industry, we already had a large reduction in the number of customers coming in. I think the pandemic has hit us, nail salons, and massage parlors deeply and made us vulnerable, considering that we mainly employ minority women. Even though we put a lot of check-in procedures [in place] to ensure the safety of our guests, increased our disposable supplies, and limited our occupancy, we have still seen sales dramatically reduced.
On top of all this, as an Asian American spa owner who employs people from Nepali and Asian backgrounds, I have never before been so worried about safety and the impact [the rise in anti-Asian hate] may have on my business. After the spa shootings, I considered adding buzzers to my spa doors for safety and not [staying open] late.
Although we hire anyone who is a great fit for the brand, we currently hire mostly women from Nepal, Egypt, Pakistan, and South America, as well as China and Korea. When Asian-related hate crimes started spiking, some of our staff were very scared to come into work on the subway. We gave them the space they needed and allowed them to stay home until they felt comfortable. We also offered to have them Uber’ed over at the company’s cost and were never dismissive of their concerns — and we absorbed all costs of any outstanding services that the women were not able to perform. We also added extra security cameras in the salons.
The general consensus we have seen is that customers are aware that Asians (Chinese people, in particular) are not to blame for the pandemic. We also find, though, that customers do tend to err on the side of caution and not know what to say to the staff members. They show their kindness by overtipping the staff and being super polite.
My particular spa and industry at large have led with threading, a skill that mainly comes from the East, including India, Pakistan, and other Asian countries. Many young women have moved away from salon professions and don’t feel comfortable working in spas anymore — hence [there’s been] a reduction in the pool of talent.
I currently serve as a Lotus Circle Advisor for the Asia Foundation, which serves [women across] 18 different countries in Asia [in the fight] against violence and gender discrimination. As an Asian American woman, I hope to see economic opportunities, growth, and futures for entrepreneurs and women from our backgrounds both in the U.S. and across the globe. As a mother of two, the Long Island caustic acid attack really scared me. I see my daughter in that girl and hope we do all that we can to bring our communities together and acknowledge the challenges we face as Asian Americans today.