Shining a Spotlight on Wantagh Businesses: Silver Scissors

Jennifer Rosen, Reporter

In October 1987, Colleen Riordan and her father opened the Wantagh hair salon Silver Scissors on 1896 Wantagh Ave. The Riordan family has lived in Wantagh for over 80 years and they were instantly drawn to opening the business in the area. She says,“My uncle was a member of the first graduating class [from Wantagh High School], my dad second, and then me, my brother and my other uncles followed so we have always been very familiar with this area,” she described. She said, “We first started across the street where Madison’s Smoothie Cafe is presently and that was our place. Then, when this location at 1877 Wantagh Avenue  became available, my dad decided to buy this building instead of paying rent. We have been here now for 28 years and have provided all hair care needs for the community including cuts, blows, colorings, straightenings, stylings, and waxings.” 

Prior to opening the business, Riordan worked as a hairstylist at another salon that she did not enjoy working at. She was inspired to open her own salon and run the business the way she wanted to, based on her passion for making others feel beautiful. Riordan reflected how, “I wanted my customers to feel they were getting my full attention, and I wanted them to feel comfortable and pretty so when they walked out of here, they were satisfied and happy when they looked in the mirror. Whether it would be a full half-hour, forty minutes, or an hour-and-a-half; I believed it was my responsibility to raise confidence in my customers. That was always my big thing.”

 Before the Pandemic

On a typical day before the pandemic, Silver Scissors operated at full staff and was open 5 days per week: Tuesdays from 9-3, Wednesdays from 9-8, Thursdays from 9-8, Fridays from 9-8, and Saturdays from 9-4. Every half-hour, customers would come in telling stories, venting about personal life, and laughing with one another. “Since we have been around for so long, we never really needed to use social media,” Riordan described. “We have a Facebook page, but I really don’t do a whole lot with it. Everything was and still is through word of mouth through friends and networking.” Silver Scissors’ clientele mainly came from the local Nassau area and had anyone from grandparents to grandkids coming in. “Since we have been open for so long, we have really seen our clients grow up with us, so we do kind of lean more towards an older crowd.” In discussing what pre-pandemic life was like, Riordan stated, “It was great. We were busy, we didn’t have to worry about social distancing, and we were full staffed, but then things changed.”

During the Pandemic

On March 21, 2020, Silver Scissors closed due to the growing strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a note to clients on Facebook, Silver Scissors wrote, “We hope to re-open March 31st if possible. We have been taking every precaution. We sanitize our stations and wash our hands after every client. Even in doing this, we still feel that we need to act responsibly for our clients and families. We will keep you updated as soon as we know…We hope to see you sooner rather than later. Please stay safe and well. We love you all, and thank you for your loyalty and friendship!” 

What was first met with excitement over having an early extension to spring break quickly turned to boredom and worry over the uncertainty of the state of the world. Riordan described how, “In March and early April, I was not nearly as upset since I thought that this shutdown would only be like two-weeks, and it felt like a forced vacation.” However, as 4-5 weeks of quarantine passed on and COVID showed no sign of letting up, Riordan began to get more nervous. With providers such as Sally Beauty Supply, Ulta, and Sephora closing due to government protocols, Riordan describes how, “I felt reluctant and cautious in giving out color kits to those asking to do their hair at home because I didn’t know what we would have when we came back. With it being very hard to get colors and products, I couldn’t risk anything happening.”

Fortunately, Riordan owned the building and did not have to worry about paying monthly rent, but other bills still needed to be paid.  “I refused to go for any of the grants because I felt businesses who really needed it deserved it. I had enough that I could do things for a couple months but after that, I was like we got to go back to work cause I have bills to pay.” 

Many individuals including Riordan often relied on TV news media to provide regular updates as to the pandemic’s growth and when possible re-openings would occur. However, as the weeks wore on, Riordan found that she had to stop watching. Riordan says,  “It was always a worry about maintaining and keeping the business open, and the news media didn’t make me feel much better. I eventually had to stop watching because at points, I thought it was nonsense and I saw that they were using scare tactics. I was especially nervous seeing how scared to death people were to come out of their homes.”

By the end of April, Riordan began to feel aggravated and frustrated. On top of worrying about keeping in contact with customers and employees, trying to obtain products, and wondering when she could open, she faced incredible personal loss. Riordan says, “My father was very sick, dying of cancer down in Florida. Him being so far away, I never really knew what was going on so by the end, I really just wanted to get back to normal and try and open up the business.”

The World Opening Up Again

The fateful day of reopening for Silver Scissors came on Wednesday, June 10. All the hair stylists were tasked with calling each of their clients individually to try and set-up an appointment. For Riordan, it was a very hectic first week. Riordan says, “I came home from Florida on Thursday and that Friday, I was taking care of the rest of the funeral stuff for my dad. On Saturday, I came back to the salon initially thinking I’d stay for a couple of hours to call my clients but I was here for 8 hours because the phones just would not stop ringing. That Tuesday, I was here for 9 hours because, again, the phones wouldn’t stop ringing and everyone was just taking care of their clients. We were just trying to get everyone booked into the system, and we had to do it carefully because you had to have everyone spaced properly to ensure social-distancing and make sure everything was sanitized so it was a lot.”

Although Riordan was able to keep everyone on staff and payroll, some of her employees, especially those who worked part time, did not come back. In obliging to new health-measures instituted by New York State and the CDC, Riordan had 3-4 employees coming in per day. Presently, many clients and employees are coming back, and some things are starting to come back to normal. She says, “We have a 2,200 square foot shop so we have 4 people on staff on our busier days, otherwise it is 2-3 people. We did open Sundays and Mondays for a while just so we could kind of get the bulk of the people out and then we were back on our regular hours so it worked out fine.” 

A  new enhancement to the hair salon came when Riordan installed an UltraViolet Light Air Treatment System which has proven to help kill viruses, bacteria, germs, microbes, and mold spores from the air. Riordan said, “A month before my father passed, he called me up and told me you have to buy this and so I did. It took a while for it to come but it’s funny you can almost smell and feel a difference from before. It’s cleaner and crisper and I bought something close to the same thing for the night to keep everyone comfortable. It gives people an extra sense of security coming in and adds an extra level of protection.”

With the long shut-down from March-June, many people had to change how they handled their hair care needs and allowed their hair to grow out. Riordan noted that while, “Color and cuts were very popular when coming back, at the same time, a lot of people dropped off colors and decided to just go natural. When we first opened up, all we did was color but a lot just decided to go grey.”

While many businesses often raised their prices, crediting the pandemic in an attempt for compensation of losses, Riordan has not actively done this. She says, “The only thing that went up was hair coloring for $2 more but that was it. I haven’t raised anything because everyone is having a hard time, and I just don’t want to add that extra burden on anyone else. I know a lot of other salons/businesses have used COVID as an excuse to jack things up but I just can’t do that to my clients.” 

For Riordan and millions of other business owners, business has not returned to what it was before the COVID pandemic. The devastating losses this pandemic has caused are seen across industries and has forced many to be resilient. Riordan states, “I’m hoping that once people get this vaccine, they will feel more comfortable coming in. I think people are tired of being in their house for a year, and they want to get back to some form of normalcy.” In noting what things have changed and stayed the same for Silver Scissors, Riordan says, “Everything is being hyper-sanitized which is never a bad thing. We have hand sanitizer for everybody, we wipe down our stations which I really like and will keep doing especially during flu season. Nothing else has really changed though. We have always been a clean shop, just a little more hyper-focused now. I don’t want anyone coming in here and not feeling comfortable. I want them to have the same fun experience. Our clients are more like friends at this point because we have done them for over 30 years. Our business is like a second-home and we hope to keep it that way.”