Christchurch Earthquake Brings Salons Together

Shaky trees and blossom falls
As the earth cracks through stone walls
Views distorted
Our economy claps
Heads hang tired as energy is zapped
Outsiders jealous of a lifted recession
Whilst uninsured victims learn challenging lessons
Stolen rest
Sound has changed
Hearts beat deep as the sun shines…
And life can never be the same

Poem by Shar Sutherland Todd, Sutherland Todd Hairdressing

On Saturday morning on the 4th September a large 7.1 earthquake hit Christchurch leaving behind mass destruction of older mostly brick buildings throughout the city. At last count approximately 31 salons were affected and have had to close and relocate due to buildings either demolished or rendered unsafe for occupation. In town for the Hito/Kitomba and the NZRH supreme Awards  we were able to see for ourselves what the businesses of Christchurch had suffered.

It’s not until you ask someone in Christchurch to relive their experience of the earthquake that you realise how much it has affected the lives of everyone.

TRUE GRIT in Manchester Street was one of many salons affected. "A very frightening experience, but we all lived to tell the tale! The team was all OK, but unfortunately the building at 85 Manchester Street was not so lucky”. Says owner Jacqui Victor.
Out of town for the weekend and out of cellphone coverage, Jacqui felt the earthquake herself and by the time she managed to get coverage her phone went crazy with calls from her team at 6am in the morning!
Kaye Briden the owner of YAZU contemporary hair on Ferry road in Christchurch, was one of the first to call telling Jacqui that she was here to help. "What ever it takes, we will make it happen, move your team and your clients to YAZU and operate out of the upstairs part of the salon”. Said Kaye.

It was an offer that Jacqui and her team will always be grateful for.  With the help of Kitomba, Jacqui and Leticia got busy to work calling the clients sending out text messages and emails to inform all the clients that the team at TRUE GRIT was OK and had relocated to 454 Ferry Road,

"The clients have been absolutely amazing with their kind words, smiles and hugs of support, we all banded together and operated at YAZU for six weeks.
The team at YAZU embraced us with open arms and made us feel very welcome”. Says Jacqui.
It has been beneficial for both teams during this six week period as both teams learnt alot from each other in more ways than one. And of course the friendships that have developed during this time will always be cherished.
Working away at YAZU only 5 days after the Earthquake, Jacqui was pro-active and when she was offered a salon that was for sale in Christchurch’s CBD, a modern safe new two level studio 5/77 Tuam Street, she got the ball rolling. 

Jacqui wanted to keep her team together and not have to let anyone go, so with the logistics of alternating a two week roster and having to change the business hours to 5 late nights as well as opening all day on a Saturday, Jacqui made it happen and kept her team all together!
Not only is Jacqui a proud owner of a new destination indulgence for TRUE GRIT, she was also nominated in three categories for the Kitomba NZARH Business Awards 2010, and won Telecom Employer of Choice. After what Jacqui has been through the salon name TRUE GRIT seems entirely appropriate.

Another salon that has had to be demolished was the beautiful Carl Watkin’s MOD'S HAIR on Victoria Street. An impressive landmark iconic Christchurch hair salon for many years all that remains today is a sign. Carl was featured on the evening news searching through the rubble for his $8000 pair of scissors.

Just a few metres further down the road is SURREAL which has been operating from the Victoria Street premises for 11 years.  With a regular staff of 13 Michelle is one of the very fortunate business owners on the street not to have suffered any serious damage.

"Of the 15 businesses on our street four are gone completely and three are seriously damaged.  It will take a long time before anything feels normal again,” says Michelle.

"The big one hit at 4.36am,” recalls Michelle with eerie precision.  "Once daylight arrived and we could see the damage to our home and our neighbour’s homes, reality started to sink in.  I just couldn’t bring myself to go and see what had happened to the business.”

"My Dad made up an excuse to go and get the water we had in the fridge at the salon but I knew he was just protecting me from seeing my hard work reduced to rubble.” Says Michelle. Prepared for the worst, Michelle was more than relieved to learn her salon had survived but her closest rival only a few doors away was completely demolished.

Going in to the CBD to see the damage herself was not easy.  "It really was like a scene from ‘The Day after Tomorrow’. Standing on the street looking at my business relatively unharmed and Mods just a few doors away completely destroyed was, excuse the pun, surreal.

"The competitive distance MOD'S HAIR owner Carl Watkins and I had maintained over the past 11 years as business neighbours just seemed totally irrelevant and a bit silly really. I had the room and they needed somewhere to work,” says Michelle. Her decision to open her salon to Carl and his 10 staff just seemed like the obvious thing to do.

Michelle’s practicality is effortless and she seems to find the silver lining in every dark cloud.  She calls what some might find an inconvenience a blessing in disguise. "It has given us all an opportunity to work together and get to know each other.”