Helmet emerges from lockdown with new look and outlook

While most of LGBTQ Atlanta was busy scrolling through memes about going without haircuts, one of the most popular places to get one took the time to refresh its spaces and really think about what the new era would look like.

Randy Addison (photo) owns Helmet Hairworx in Midtown and Virginia-Highland, and he considered quarantine and the state closures of his businesses as an opportunity.

“It's been a complete mixed bag, to be honest, but I'm one of those people who believes the challenges of 2020 are here to create perspective and new outlooks,” Addison tells Q. “The ‘new normal’ keeps changing, but fortunately we were able to do facelifts at both locations during the closure. Fresh paint and rearranging really make the spaces pop.”

Like many in the service industry unable to work, Helmet staff took it hard but also understood the necessity of the closures. From there, a little teamwork paid off as they hunkered down and got to work.

“I'm proud of my team and how they embraced caution and safety,” Addison says. “We were all on the same page from the outset, which made it much easier to devise a reopening plan. Like most major disruptions in life, we've been adapting and shifting our plans as new information comes out.

“So, how has it been? Like riding a roller coaster. With a mask on,” he laughs.

As ongoing coronavirus concerns and anti-racism demonstrations make June of 2020 as unpredictable as April and May, Addison keeps a clear head about his roles as stylist, business owner, community member and supporter of social justice. He let us in on bringing his thinking and his shops into the next phase of Atlanta 2020.

What does the “new normal” look like at Helmet?

We work in socially distant shifts, team A and team B, so that if we need to contact trace, it'll be much easier. We modified some services, including temporary discontinuation of blow-dries and beard trims. We eliminated our waiting areas and keep our front doors locked. 

Clients must wait outside or in their car until their stylist is ready for them; they must enter wearing masks and allow us to take their temperature, as well as cashless forms of payment and gratuity. We sanitize our stations between clients and wear hospital scrubs or smocks that are easily changed and laundered several times per day. The expense of preparing for the new rituals was significant.

What have the reactions to the changes been like? 

Our clients have been amazing and very supportive. They understand that close proximity can lead to personal risk, and they have really respected our rules and guidelines to keep them and our team safe. We know that, over time, more and more will feel comfortable returning and look forward to welcoming them when they are ready.

How ready are you to put this phase behind us?

Ready? Oh yeah. But this altered experience will be with us for a while. The question will be whether businesses like ours, and even restaurants, will be able to reach a certain volume in order to survive. Adaptation will be everything.

How have the demonstrations in Midtown affected your shops or you personally?

We've only altered our schedule once over traffic concerns, but we are in full support of the community. I am personally very vocal about it, and quite proud that our team represents the diversity of the communities we serve. 

We are living in a time in which discomfort is a learning tool. So many shortcomings are being revealed and exposed in a way that is impossible to ignore. So what will we do with these lessons? Will we learn or figure out creative ways to sweep them under the carpet? I'm trying every day to find meaning and a path while running a gauntlet we all helped create, through denial, ignorance or privilege. 

What else? Anything you want to be sure and mention? 

Our mission statement at Helmet is very straightforward: “We aren't just called to do amazing hair; we do it with sincere effort, skillful execution and high intention.” 

More than ever, "high intention" plays the biggest role in how we represent ourselves and serve our community. As the saying goes: Integrity isn't just a value; it's the value on which all other values rely.

Helmet Hairworx is at 970 Piedmont Ave., near 10th Street, 404-815-1629, and at 1186 North Highland Ave. in Virgina-Highland at Amsterdam Ave., 404-249-9133. Visit helmethairworx.com.