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Jamaal Lane, A Portland Business Owner, Refuses To Give Up

There’s no doubt that Coronavirus caught everyone off guard, including Portland Oregon business owners like Jamaal Lane who were forced to shut down their businesses in March.

Sadly, since the lock down many business owners have since closed their businesses and won’t be coming back once Portland’s economy is allowed to reopen.

About Jamall Lane

Jamaal Lane knew what he was doing when he decided to open the Champions Barbering Institute in 2016. He’d started as a barber himself in 2003, and opened his first storefront, Champions Barber Shop in Portland in 2008. The school was an opportunity to get out of the day-to-day business of cutting hair, focus on growing his own business, and give back to a new generation of up-and-coming barbers.

It was a big move, but it worked: Early this year, business was good. He’d just enrolled in a new class of 20 students at the school and had 14 barbers working for him in three shops across the metro area.

Now, those 14 barbers are among the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who are out of work.

When Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order on March 23 requiring Oregonians to stay at home, the order specified non-essential businesses that were forced to close. Fifth on that list? Barbershops and hair salons.

Still, Lane said he wasn’t caught off-guard; he’d already had a meeting with his staff the week before. He wanted to let them decide for themselves whether continuing to work through a growing pandemic was worth the risk.

Barbershops are close-quarters establishments. They follow strict safety and sanitation guidelines, but there’s no social distancing available when you spend your days touching your clients’ heads and faces. Most of Lane’s barbers decided that risk simply wasn’t worth it.

“A lot of them have older family members, they were taking it very seriously,” Lane said. “They were worried about taking it to their families, saying, ‘I could potentially wipe my whole family out.’”

“That’s when it clicked for me,” he said. “Oh, we will be closed soon whether the governor makes a decision here or not.”

Waiting game

While deciding to close his business was a clear decision, navigating the web of government assistance programs has been murky. Lane said he went right ahead and applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance program and the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration, but both came up dry.

It’s not just him: Lane said that he doesn’t know of a single barbershop in the state that’s had any luck either.

“I haven’t talked to one shop owner in the state of Oregon that I know — and I know quite a few — that has received funds from either of those programs,” Lane said.

His theory is that businesses like Champions Barbershop and Barbering Institute just aren’t big enough to register with the influx of need: They’ve been crowded out by thousands of other small businesses in the same, urgent situation.

“I have a strong feeling they’re prioritizing the funds to larger companies that are asking for larger sums of money,” he said. “I truly believe that’s what happening.”

Portland Businesses Are Slowly Reopening

As Portland Oregon businesses are slowly allowed to reopen following Coronavirus, it’s likely that Jamaal Lane and other barbers, stylists and salons across Portland will be allowed to reopen soon since most cities across the United States are allowing salons to open if their customers wear face coverings.

One thing is for certain, Portland needs small businesses to survive and once PDX locals are able to get their haircuts locally again, life will return a little more back to “normal” after Coronavirus.


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