SUNDRE — The owner of a local massage parlour said the provincial government’s pandemic response has been a frustrating and confusing roller-coaster ride.
But Julie Wolfe, who runs the Tranquility Day Spa, sounded relieved on lasat week when contacted by The Albertan about the government’s announcement that restrictions are expected to be increasingly relaxed over the coming weeks, barring any sudden case surges and hospitalizations.
“We’re happy that we’re trying to get back to normal here this coming Tuesday (June 1),” said Wolfe.
“We look forward to any normalization, really,” she said.
The past year of uncertainty and repeating cycles of closing up and re-opening has been a burdensome and frustrating experience that she hopes to leave in the rearview mirror.
“Hopefully, this never happens again — this is the third time,” she said about the most recent tightening of pandemic protocols introduced earlier in May.
Every time restrictions are imposed, closing up shop is not just a simple matter of turning the lights off and locking the doors, she said, adding a strategy must be carefully considered to account for all of the logistics involved.
That includes factoring in not only wages, cash flow and bills, but also maintaining customer relations as well as properly storing certain all natural stock items with shelf lives that require refrigeration or risk going to waste.
“Luckily, I have that extra money from the government to actually pay my rent this month and pay for the electric bill and the phone bill,” she said.
While Wolfe fully recognizes some of the provincial government’s public health measures are obviously in place for a good reason, she said not all of the rules seem particularly logical.
“When a person can do a massage but a person cannot do aesthetics in the same situation, it’s just very confusing,” she said.
Not everyone comes to a massage parlour purely to be pampered, she said.
“There’s a lot of people, a lot of elderly people, that rely on foot care and things like that. It’s very important,” she said.
However, while therapeutic body massages were still allowed by appointment only following the tightening of restrictions earlier in May, services deemed more aesthetic such as foot care and pedicures, were not, she said, wondering why providing a massage on a table is considered alright, but not working on their feet.
“They don’t (always) just come to have their feet look pretty — they come for a medical reason. That’s what frustrates me,” she said.
“They’ve been phoning me left, right and centre, and saying ‘Well, I’ll pay the fine if you get fined — my feet hurt!’ There’s just so many stories.”
However, that is no longer the case in light of last week’s announcement, and Wolfe said the salon will as of today (Tuesday, June 1) be offering full services by appointment only as per regulations.
Although some clients have been calling up in anticipation, Wolfe said she and her staff have also prioritized reaching out to their customers with a focus on those who require massages to ease foot pain, for example.
“We have to look after our people first and foremost — the ones that need it,” she said.
Over at Hairway to Heaven, owner Kathy Townsend said following the government’s announcement that she was “absolutely ecstatic.”
“I need to put food on my table again and pay rent,” said Townsend, calling the last 15 months “crazy.”
“It’s been really hard on us,” she said, adding she lost a lot of staff due to employees having no choice but to find other jobs to make ends meet.
While she has a barber as well as a few technicians who provide services like hair extensions and manicures, Townsend added she also has “three chairs that are sitting empty waiting for hair stylists to take them up.”
As part of the effort to adapt to a world changed by the pandemic, she said, “I do chair rentals. So, I don’t have to worry about paying employees’ wages anymore. It’s the only way I could survive.”
Although open for business by appointment-only, she said, “It’s been crazy busy.”
When she spoke with The Albertan, their schedule was already booked solid through June into early July.
Excited about the prospect of moving ahead to Stage 2 of the provincial government’s economic relaunch strategy, Townsend hopes people don’t prematurely decide to pretend the pandemic is over.
“I just hope everybody sticks to the rules and regulations — wearing masks, getting vaccines — so we can be back to normal,” she said.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there with different opinions on what should be done. But they have to come to realize that they’re the ones that keep getting us shut down for not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Back when smallpox and polio were an issue, the public largely welcomed vaccinations and those diseases were largely eradicated, she pointed out.
“So, I don’t know what the big deal is now. We’re under a new pandemic. We have to do what we have to do to stay healthy and help everybody else stay healthy — it’s not just about an individual, it’s about a whole population, globally,” she said.
“If everybody sticks to the rules and regulations, by the end of June, then all restrictions can be lifted and it will be a huge party I’m sure!”