I’m Bruna Dicecca. My journey as a small business owner began 18-years ago on October 18, 2002. Back then the West part of town was just beginning to flourish. Yet, I opened Ritual Hair Skin Beauty (with a former partner) on King Street West.
Ritual was the very first ‘nail bar’ in the city. It was my labour of love, and I happily poured everything I had into it. During the day, I would work the front desk, greeting customers as they walked in while providing an air of gratitude to each person that walked through the door. At night I worked at a bar, making any extra cash I could just to make ends meet.
I can vividly remember sleeping on a futon in our staff room, after having worked until 3 or 4am at the bar, just to ensure I would be at Ritual to open the doors the following morning.
As our neighbourhood continued to gentrify into the existing ‘trendy King West,’ so did Ritual’s reputation. Our professionalism and reputation spoke for itself, and we became known as THE shop for all things beauty.
The services that were offered expanded to include tanning, manis/pedis, waxing, hair cuts, hair colouring… you name it, we did it. And we did it well… because we were always on the hunt for talented experts in the field that we could welcome to our Ritual family. We grew so fast, we took over a second unit.
Fast forward to June 2006, I gave birth to my first son, Kyi, and one month later, I was back at the salon. Many times, with my newborn in tow. In 2014, due to rent discrepancies with our landlord, we decided to take a leap of faith, and move to our current home at 571 Wellington Street West. We grew from a team of 18 to 30 overnight!
As with any business, there are challenges and obstacles to overcome. However, through the ups and downs, Ritual has always continued to thrive. Both personally and professionally, I am no stranger to adversity. But work has never felt like work, especially being surrounded by talented and uplifting individuals who love what they do and do it phenomenally well. Some of the top beauty service providers in the city are part of our team. We would not be who we are today without them.
Our Ritual family was, and continues to be, close knit and supportive of one another and our clientele. We would often joke that we are the modern version of the 80’s TV show ‘Cheers,’ where everyone knows your name, and where our patrons are more like family, sharing milestones, victories and personal struggles. Many of these same beloved clients from back then are still our clients today—and we are grateful for each and every one of them.❤️
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, it was like a shock to the system.
A proverbial punch in the gut.
I was forced to close our doors, do our part to flatten the curve, and protect my staff and guests. With a heavy heart, I closed our doors the week of March 15th—one week prior to the mandatory shut down for all non-essential businesses.
As my store manager, Camille, and I contacted hundreds of our guests who had scheduled appointments, the reality of the shutdown sunk in. Laying off my team of 22 beautiful humans was the hardest decision I had to make. The uncertainty of not knowing when we will be able to re-open and how we will survive this nightmare has taken its toll—to say the least.
The impact this has had on our industry and business has been difficult. Fortunately, my landlord was gracious enough to defer April’s rent. Shout out to OLP for being supportive during these unsettling times! As for May and June’s rent, we will cross that scary bridge when we get to it.
As for me personally… I won’t be able to make my mortgage payments and have yet to hear back from my Lender. On their site they state they are working with clients on a case by case basis. What does that mean? It has been 4 weeks and I have yet to hear back from them. I don’t know whether I will be eligible for mortgage deferral.
The greater fear is that when we do re-open, we have no idea what the future holds. Will I be able to pay my increased deferred mortgage? Will I be able to pay back the $40k business loan in order to receive the $10k of capital forgiveness? Will I be able to make my rent? Will our clients continue to walk through the doors in a collapsed economy? Will we have to work modified hours and limit the amount of people we allow through our doors? These are all questions we don’t know the answers to. No one does. And the uncertainty is frightening.
While the government is slowly announcing relief options, they need to act faster. They need to help us find solace in knowing that we are safe and protected and that they ARE doing everything they can to help us, so that we can focus on pivoting and focus on strategies and systems that are going to assist us once we re-open.
The government NEEDS to act faster!!!
They need to freeze rent for small businesses and offer some sort of relief for landlords as well. And mortgage payments MUST be deferred by all lenders. Not maybe. It’s a NEED.
Not being able to provide stability for my employees, or answering their questions, has been exhausting… as well as excruciating. With little to no information as to where this pandemic is heading, I find myself overwhelmed and frustrated.
So now, we’re all home. We’re expected to home school our kids, be councillors and chefs, as well as cheerleaders to our families AND our team members. I’m embracing my time with family, trying to find a balance and peace amidst the chaos. I would be able to appreciate it more if the edge could be taken off the financial implications to our industry. That way we can all rest assured that we can bounce back from this situation stronger, better and more united than ever.
Faced with the uncertainty of what the future holds and the powerlessness… feels like you’re riding a roller coaster. I feel blessed and joyful for the love, support, and kind words of encouragement our community has offered. But then there’s the fear; the excruciatingly painful fear of not knowing how or when we will be able to bounce back and get back to work.
Owner, Ritual Hair Skin Beauty