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One year since temporarily shutting down salon, Charlotte business owner says she sees 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Restaurants and bars were closed to dine-in service first, followed by hair salons, movie theaters, gyms, and more.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Almost one year ago, many businesses shut down operations as the pandemic spread across the country.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper first issued Executive Orders closing restaurants and bars to dine-in service.

Days later, movie theaters, gyms, pools, concert venues, and hair salons followed.

Salon 42, with multiple locations across the Charlotte area, shut down temporarily on March 17, 2020, before the state order went into effect.

Cara Viers, owner of Salon 42, recalls having to tell all of her employees that they were shutting down during that time and not knowing what the future would hold.

WCNC Charlotte was there last March as Viers passed out quarantine essentials like toilet paper and handed her employees their last paychecks.

"Gosh, that was a really emotional time, and we shut down,” Viers said. “I cried my eyes out, and thought, 'I don't know what we're going to do.' But we're just going to take this one day at a time, and my biggest priority is going to be to take care of this team."

From March 17 to June 2, the salon chairs at Salon 42 sat empty. 

During that time when people couldn’t get their hair done, Viers and her team gave out 200 free color combination formulas in return for donations to a local food shelter. They also prepared the salons to reopen safely.

When the salon locations reopened, Viers said they were almost immediately booked up from June to August.

"The floodgates opened. It was the craziest thing we'd ever seen,” Viers said. “All these people who had been in quarantine for all these months could think of nothing else than to get their hair done."

The initial rush kept stylists busy, Viers said. The salon initially added extra hours and days to keep up with demand and allow for social distancing.

But then appointments dropped off around the holidays. Viers said it was the slowest time she has ever seen since getting into the salon business.

"It's because there were no Christmas parties. There were no group gatherings,” she said. “There weren't any reasons that gave people a need to come in and be beautified, if you would."

Business is starting to pick back up as the COVID-19 case counts drop and more people are able to get the vaccine.

RELATED: Tracking coronavirus data: Carolinas outbreak map

"March has been a light at the end of the tunnel,” Viers said. “A little bit of some great hope for us."

Hair salons in North Carolina are still operating at 50% capacity, and stylists and guests must wear masks.

But a year after the salon locations temporarily shut down, Viers said the advice she would give herself is to stay true to loving and caring about people first before anything else.

"I think I would have said to myself just buckle up and know that you're going to be here a year later," Viers said. "And it's going to be ok."

RELATED: Cohen: Group 4 is 'majority' of workers in North Carolina

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