State wants bigger cut from hair salons, barber shops

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011



FRANKLIN—When Debbie Story began cutting hair 39 years ago, she believes she paid $25 for her state cosmetology license.

Over the years, the owner of Hair Designs on Fifth Avenue in Franklin experienced gradual increases for the two-year permit, but is now faced with that fee going from $55 to $140.

“I think that’s kind of ridiculous,” Story said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, small business owners like myself (are hit hard) when the fees continue to go up.”

The Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology has proposed almost doubling the license fees for individuals and facilities it regulates. In addition the cosmetology license, the licensing fees for salons and barber shops would jump from $90 to $225.

“It’s reflecting the increased cost of doing business,” said Mary Vaughn, the director of communications, legislation and consumer education at the state Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.

The Board for Barbers and Cosmetology says it needs the fee increases because the agency is self-supporting. It relies on fees — not taxes — to pay for its operations from inspectors’ salaries to website management.

“The idea is not that agencies like ours are charging such excessive fees and we run this huge cash balance,” Vaughn said. “The idea is you raise enough to do what you need to do and have enough of a cushion to adjust but not raise fees so excessively.”

The board recently added tattoo artists and aestheticians, who provide waxing and other services, to the professions it oversees. That has increased the agency’s costs.

While Story’s business remains steady, she has seen a loss in customers from folks moving away since the closing of International Paper in Franklin just about a year ago. She’s also noticed that people are taking more time between haircuts.

“I need to increase our prices, which I haven’t done in three years,” Story said. “I’m trying to keep the business we have. The fees make it hard not to (raise prices).”

Thomas Hall, owner of Elite Hair Designs on Armory Drive in Franklin, thinks he’s already paying enough for license and salon fees.

“You pay the city for a license, and then you have to pay state fees, state taxes . . .,” Hall said. “It’s just another way of ripping you off. Just like gas prices. It goes up and you can’t do anything about it, but deal with it.”

In the hair business for 23 years and a shop owner for 18, Hall said he remembers paying $50 for the two-year license and then gradual increases, but never has the fee doubled.

“It’s hard to increase prices because then people will start doing their hair at home,” he said.