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What It’s Like Being A Service Industry Business Owner In The Capital Region During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Joe "Woody" Wood, who owns Woody's Barbershop on South Broadway, tells 'Saratoga Living' in his own words—and the words of others.

Barbers, and other service industry businesses deemed "nonessential," are hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was recently talking with my wife about all the normalcies of life that had been upended since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the Capital Region, and I was rather embarrassed to admit that I was worried about when I’d be able to get my next haircut. I even later joked with my coworkers that, at some point in the weeks ahead, I’d turn up on FaceTime with a giant lion’s mane of hair. I’ve since come to the conclusion that, if necessary, I wouldn’t be averse to shaving my head, as I did throughout my 20s. It might take a little longer for my hair to grow back at 40, but at least I know I can rock the look.

This all brings me to the subject of Saratoga Living‘s latest “What It’s Like” feature, my friend and barber, Joe “Woody” Wood, who’s Master Barber at Woody’s Barbershop on South Broadway. (FYI: We started the “What It’s Like” feature to give locals a day-in-the-life peek inside the lives of both “essential” and “nonessential” workers in the greater Capital Region.) Woody’s been cutting my (and a lot of prominent Saratoga Race Course horsemen’s and the editor of the Empire Report‘s) hair for years now, and he’s done it with a grace and skill I’ve rarely seen in the profession. (That’s my own biased opinion, of course.) As soon as I sit down in Woody’s barber’s chair, it’s like being in the presence of an old friend: We immediately begin talking about life; sometimes, politics (I listen more than react); religion (something that I’m not really into but is extremely important to him); and sports (we’re both golfers). And, look, I don’t trust my hair with any old person; ever since that fellow in Astoria, Queens, mucked up my buzz cut back in the middle aughts, I’ve only trusted my hair with the best of them. So, without further ado, here’s Woody talking about what it’s like being a “nonessential” barber right now.

***

In today’s new world, everything seems to have changed. With the closure of all “nonessential businesses,” which is a term worthy of a whole other article, everyone has been affected—from those of us small business owners, who have been forced to close our doors, to those of you, who have been forced to suffer the loss of our essential services. At least with restaurants, you can go pick up your food or have it delivered, but how about those other essential services we all need on a regular basis? Let’s face it, today we don’t get to do enough for ourselves, so every little thing we are forced to stop doing is just another disappointment.

As the owner of Woody’s Barbershop in Downtown Saratoga, I have had clients asking me for solutions to how to get their haircut or beard trims during this maddening time we are living in, and rest assured, they have had some pretty crazy ideas—from secretly meeting in the barbershop with the lights off and having me put a barber chair on the back of my truck to having me come over to there kitchen and doing it there. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget ‘ole faithful: opening up my barbershop in my own house or garage.

Think about this: I closed my barbershop five days before anyone else did, for the greater good of the community and the safety of all of my clients. I did this, because I care about each and every one of you, and all of your families. I knew that by staying home and quarantining myself, as all caring Americans should be doing right now, I was saving lives—even if it’s just one, it’s worth it—and wouldn’t it be great knowing, on my death bed someday, that I saved another human being by doing the right thing at least once?

To be honest, in my youth, I can’t say I would have done the same as I did this time around, because after all, when I was young, the world revolved around me and only me. But now I not only see the light, but I’m also begging you all to see it with me. Don’t worry about your sad, goofy looking ’70s haircuts; your wild, overgrown grey roots that resemble the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz; or your oddly shaped, ever-growing Santa Claus beard; know that by staying the course in quarantine and thinking about the greater good, you will all, maybe, look and feel equally “unconfident” for now, as individuals, but “great” as human beings. Trust me: The beauty of each and every one of us, is inside of us, and for anyone who can’t see that…well, I really can’t help you.

The service industries (like mine) have an obligation to everyone—and in turn, to remain closed, because, by the nature of our work, we’re forced to work so closely together and that makes all of us vulnerable to exposure (that, and we don’t have Gumby-length arms). So, do all of us small business owners—the entire service industry, and in fact, the entire world—a favor, and stay home for awhile and wait for us to get back to work safely. Then come see us, and let us do our thing. Rest assured, we will make all of you feel better about yourselves soon.

For anyone wishing to donate or help a small business—and put those of us, who always put you first, first, please reach out to your favorite ones and make a donation if you can afford it. Please. I assure you, our lives (and livelihoods) depend on it.

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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