WORTHINGTON — Ten and a half weeks after barber shops and beauty salons were shuttered by Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders in response to COVID-19, Minnesota stylists are back in business and busier than ever.

Salons and barber shops reopened June 1 at 25% capacity, increasing to 50% today. It will take time to beautify the clients wanting haircuts, colors, beard trims, eyelash extensions and an array of other services.

At Shear Expressions, owner Coleen Bui said she and her four stylists were booked solid last week, and that’s expected to continue for a while.

“Some of us put in 14-hour days last week,” said Bui, whose own shift went from 6:45 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. most days last week.

This week, she’s booking 12-hour days to fit in clients eager for a haircut or color, and she has bookings scheduled out for the next two weeks with a few remaining openings.

“The chemical (treatments) are the harder ones to get in,” said Bui, noting she tried to fit in clients in need of colors first because “they were probably the most desperate.”

Kelly Kluever and Joyce Bohn, co-owners of The Hair Gallery, said clients began calling to book appointments a day after the executive orders went into effect on March 18, expecting salons to open quicker than they did.

As soon as it was announced they could reopen June 1, stylists began filling in their appointment books.

“I think it’s been fun to see everyone,” said Kluever, who anticipates working 12- to 13-hour days for another three weeks. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been good work. We’ve missed everyone so much.”

To meet reopening guidelines, only five of the salon’s eight stylists can work at the same time. As a result, Bohn said some are working evenings or weekends.

While their schedules will one day return to normal, the precautionary steps barbers and stylists have to take in the midst of the global pandemic are anything but the usual. Masks are required attire for both stylists and clients, and temperature checks are conducted on everyone entering a salon or barbershop. Sanitizing is conducted after every client.

Each client is asked whether they’ve had a cough or fever, or experienced symptoms of COVID-19. The logs are used for contact tracing if someone should test positive for the novel coronavirus.

Victor Sanchez, a barber at New Gen Studio, said haircuts, beard shaves and eyebrow work have been the three most requested services among men who eagerly awaited the reopening of the downtown barbershop last Tuesday.

“Last week was completely booked, and we’re almost booked up already for this week,” Sanchez said Monday. New Gen Studio employs two barbers, two hair stylists and a nail tech.

Using the online program Booksy to schedule appointments has worked well to limit people inside the barbershop, Sanchez said.

“We make them wait outside in their car until it is their turn,” he said. “(Booksy) sends a notification to them saying they are able to come in.”

A sanitation station greets people upon entry to New Gen Studio, and Sanchez said the waiting room and restrooms are off limits for now.

“We have every other station open in order to keep our distance,” he added.

At Transición Salon, owner Michelle Markman and three other stylists were “completely, exhaustingly busy” last week, with bookings now scheduled a month out, unless it’s for a haircut or a less time-consuming service.

One of the few Worthington salons open seven days a week, Markman said she’s had a lot of requests from clients for eyelash extensions and color retouches.

Some were a little too desperate as salon closures dragged on and tried to either cut their own hair or color it. Markman said it didn’t go very well for them in most cases.

Clients of Transición Salon will notice some marked changes when they arrive for their appointment. Because the salon’s chairs don’t meet the six-foot separation distance, Markman used several weeks of downtime to get plexiglass ordered and installed between each of the stations, between the pedicure stations (one chair was removed), above the shampoo bowls and at the reception desk.

The reception area is closed, only one person is allowed per stylist in the building at any one time, and a thorough cleaning is done every 30 minutes.

Shear Expressions underwent a four-week remodeling project to meet the separation distance guidelines, noted Bui, who also installed an ozone sanitizer as an added precaution. The sanitizer is turned on each night, and works to kill any bacteria and virus that is present.

After more than 10 weeks away from their jobs, all of the stylists said they missed their clients just as much as they were missed.

Kluever said she kept in contact with her “regular ladies” every week.

“They just wanted to know what I was doing,” she said. “For some of them, we’re their only out, other than a doctor appointment.They like to hear what we’re doing — working in the flower bed or the garden, cleaning the basement or prepping for graduation.”

Kluever said in her first week back at the salon, some clients had tears because they were so happy to see her.

“I’ve had a couple hugs, which is illegal but I let it happen,” she added. “We’re super grateful for everyone that’s waited for us. We’re so glad to be back, and we just want everyone to stay healthy. That’s why all the precautions.”

“Because we love them all,” added Bohn.

Sanchez said his clients were very supportive and understanding of the guidelines and regulations now, and they appreciate their barber is back in business.

Like Kluever, he had clients he checked in with weekly as well.

“All of my clients are like family to me,” he said, adding his thanks to all of the customers who have come in or booked an appointment.

“We really appreciate that they’re back with us — that they waited that long to get a haircut from us means a lot,” said Sanchez, adding that some of their clients were so happy to get a haircut it was like seeing a little kid when they get their first toy.

“I’m just very happy to be back and do what I do and support my family and try to achieve my goals,” he said.