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Face to Face: Altruist Salon owner studies her way through pandemic closure

When health officials closed her salon on March 22 to stem to spread of the COVID-19 virus, Andrea Morigeau-Hardy was forced to furlough her 13 employees.

As the owner of Altruist Salon in Missoula, the closure wasn’t easy, but it afforded her new opportunities.

“The fortunate piece for my salon is that all my staff are employees, so they were all able to collect unemployment right away,” said Morigeau-Hardy. “We don’t have anybody on staff right now. We technically laid everybody off. I anticipate all of them will be coming back.”

While Gov. Steve Bullock has set a phased approach for reopening businesses across the state, the Missoula City-County Health Department has released more stringent rules.

In doing so, local health officials won’t allow salons like Morigeau-Hardy’s to reopen until Phase 2 of the state’s plan, which could be weeks or months away.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out a schedule for social distancing,” she said. “We’re working out a schedule to try to have two people here at a time with our customers. When and if they do say we can reopen, we’ll be ready to go.”

Morigeau-Hardy has spent the time she’s been closed reviewing the federal recovery bills and what they include, and how they might benefit her businesses and her employees. She also has reviewed the internal operations of her salon, looking for opportunities to make adjustments.

She also has had time to reflect on life in general.

“As unfortunate as it has been, I think there will be some good things that come from it,” she said. “I think there’s a new perspective on the daily grind of life. It’s been interesting to stay home and reevaluate life in general and how much time we spend at work and how much time you get with your family.”