How a salon does its (nu)Best in the pandemic

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From left, nuBest Salon & Spa general manager Gloria Farley, co-creative directors Jamie Mazzei and Vincent Cascio, and artistic director Christian Fleres outside their Northern Boulevard location. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

When nuBest Salon & Spa, the Manhasset business that Jamie Mazzei’s family had owned for decades, had to shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was shocked.

“We were all very confused as things started to slow down,” Mazzei said in an interview. “We started obviously doing a ton of research on what we should do, because we didn’t think we were going to close.”

Mazzei, who serves as co-creative director of nuBest, said staff members began making adjustments to their work environments and thought they could operate normally – until the state of New York ordered salons and spas to close indefinitely to avoid the spread of COVID-19. They were not allowed to open again until June 10.

As soon as the lockdown began, Mazzei turned to the rest of the family and staff that runs the business to figure out the best ways to tackle the still-distant reopening.

Mazzei’s father, Michael, founded the salon 47 years ago in the shell of a former Best & Co. department store on Northern Boulevard, christening it nuBest to honor its former tenant. Mazzei began working at the salon when he was 16, and his cousins Vincent Cascio, the salon’s co-creative director, and Christian Fleres, artistic director, began at 19 and 14, respectively.

“During that time we all spent a lot of time researching how we could create an environment when we come back that people would feel very safe coming into,” Mazzei said. “The one thing we really have was space. We knew that we had a large enough environment that we could, at the very least have all our chairs 6 to 8 feet apart, and we would be able to safely have clients come here.”

General manager Gloria Farley of Port Washington has spent 30 years with the business and said that the pandemic challenged nuBest in a way never faced before.

“The entire facility underwent an electrostatic sterilization process, and will again,” Farley said. “Normally, everything gets sanitized, but we took it up for our clients.”

Cascio, who also works as a hair designer at the salon, said the first day back after four months away felt “a little awkward,” especially with some clients coming in after weeks without appointments.

“The whole scope of it was different,” Cascio said.

Measures were also taken to keep the staff safe and working, Farley said.

“We have over 100 people that work for us, and everyone that works here specializes, so the stylists just cut hair, colorists just color hair, spa employees work in the spa,” Farley said. “So once we reopened in June, we had to adjust everybody’s schedule in order to give everybody an opportunity to work.”

Farley said the salon extended its hours and split its shifts to give employees time to work. Most of the salon and spa’s traditional services, including hair styling and trimming, massages, and facials, will continue to be offered, except for one.

“We get many requests for makeup, but it’s just not feasible to do it at this point,” Farley said.

In addition to requiring masks under the state mandate, nuBest is keeping equipment single-use, plastic glass and tempered glass have been strategically placed, and a table has been set up out front to perform temperature checks on customers, among other measures.

Mirroring his own beginning, Mazzei’s son Mark, 16, is starting his own career at nuBest. He said the advice he has given him so far is to be aware that “it’s a different time.”

“When hairdressers go to school, they go to school largely, in part, for hygiene,” Mazzei said. “Keeping things clean and keeping things sanitized, we’re all licensed in that. And the future of this business will build upon that as science will dictate what the future of going into any space will be. We will stay, no matter what, as safe as we can possibly make it.”

“This is our home; we come here every day,” Cascio said. “It’s an extension of ourselves, and seeing so many of the clients leave happy is a good feeling.”

nuBest Salon & Spa is located at 1482 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset. Appointments can be made by phone at 516-627-9444, and a complete list of services and specials is available at nubestsalon.com.

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