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Hair stylist uses most of her savings to buy first home. Then COVID-19 hit

Salon starts virtual tip jar to help stylists
Posted at 3:12 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 21:51:23-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's an overwhelming feeling of being able to buy your first home. For Ashley Hernandez, her new house in a developing neighborhood in Antioch has been a sanctuary of sorts since moving in December.

"I love my home so much, it's my own," Hernandez gleefully said. "The house to me is a place to have my peace and comfort."

Standing near ongoing construction, Hernandez is worried if her own prized possession could all crumble in the future. Paying her bills including the home she waited and worked a year worth of "craziness and paperwork" for is a worry. Like for many others, the COVID-19 outbreak has put her in a vulnerable place.

"I've dipped into my savings and almost completely depleted it. Now I'm relying on the generosity of friends and family," Hernandez said.

As a longtime hairstylist, Hernandez said she's able to get by for now with the support from loved ones and clients. Her salon, Osho Collective Salon + Wellness Spa near I-440, has been closed for several days. Social distancing alone makes their job nonexistent.

In an industry where income is fluid, she's always been prepared for down times, although this time around it's more difficult with uncertainty if the safer at home order in Davidson County will be lifted after April 24.

She's learning to have an even bigger emergency fund in the future in case something similar were to happen in the future.

"There's a lot of things I'm scared about and worried about. We have good weeks, bad weeks, good months and bad months, and so I've been doing this for 16 years and I've learned to prepare for hard times but this is by far the craziest hard time I've been through," Hernandez said.

Hernadez recently filed for unemployment and applied for a charity grant that operates on a lottery basis. She's considering deferring her mortgage to help her situation.

More than 90,000 people in Tennessee filed unemployment claims last week, which doubled from the previous week. There have been more than six million claims across the country.

To help with finances, Hernandez and her other co-workers have been staying proactive online to find other avenues of income. Co-worker JB O'Donnell said the community has been supportive, whether that's buying their products and gift cards or using a virtual tip jar she created on the salon's Instagram account.

"Gratuities that they're going to give us later on services performed, they can tip those right now," O'Donnell said. "It kind of makes me a little bit emotional because they're really coming through for us."

The virtual tip jar is doing better than expected with clients showing out. O'Donnell advised people to consider supporting local businesses like salons by purchasing items now.