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Howard County Times
Howard County

In time of need, Columbia salon helps neighbor flooded out in Ellicott City

Early Sunday, as she began to realize the extent of damage her Main Street hair salon suffered in the Ellicott City flood, one of the first phone calls Rachel Rawlings received was from someone who might be seen as a competitor.

Sarah McGee, manager of Thirty Hair in Columbia, was on the line offering space in her salon for Rawlings and her stylists to work while Main Street remains shut down.

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"It's in instances like this — when you need it the most — that you find out you have friends," said Rawlings, who owns Salon Marielle with her mother, Mary Anne Medeiros.

In the often cutthroat salon business, the owners of Salon Marielle and Thirty Hair have forged a friendly relationship.

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A couple years ago, when Thirty Hair was in between locations, its stylists spent several months working from Salon Marielle. So it was only natural for McGee to pay back the kindness.

"In this industry, most salons are notorious for stealing clients and stealing staff," McGee said. "We are quite the opposite."

Salon Marielle has been front and center in the news coverage of Saturday's devastating flooding in Ellicott City. The shop now stands before a huge chasm and firefighters have fitted lumber braces under the building.

Rawlings and Medeiros have seen their salon on TV, on the front pages of newspapers and even on the Weather Channel's smartphone app. But given the precarious nature of the structure, they won't be allowed to go inside any time soon.

The women have worried that their stylists are losing income and won't have money to buy new tools and brushes if they can't retrieve them from the damaged building. That's why the offer to work from a temporary location at Thirty Hair was fortuitous. They expect to be up and running by early next week.

"Just knowing we have this place to go, we are so fortunate," Rawlings said.

Rawlings and Medeiros have been working nonstop since Saturday night dealing with the situation at their Main Street space. They also own a salon in Havre de Grace and have been able to use the computer system there to cancel and reschedule appointments. They are working to get their phone line transferred to their temporary location.

It's the type of arrangements scores of Ellicott City businesses have had to make as they dig out. Howard County officials began letting some business owners into the historic district Monday, but they could not enter their buildings until they had been deemed safe. On Tuesday, the county opened an assistance center to help business and homeowners gain quicker access to state, county and nonprofit resources.

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Despite their situation, Rawlings and Medeiros remain upbeat, reminding themselves things could be worse: The salon was closed when the floodwaters rushed through, so no one was hurt. And they can get back to work soon.

Others on Main Street, they say, are much worse off, having lost inventory and having no way to start bringing in money soon.

"I feel like we're better off than our dear friends because we have a place to go because of the good graces of someone else," Rawlings said.

When the two staffs worked together previously at Salon Marielle, everyone got along famously, McGee said. She's working to make sure the same collegiality prevails at Thirty Hair.

McGee's staff is freeing up some work stations for Salon Marielle stylists to use, making room for Salon Marielle's hair dye, adding chairs in the waiting area, setting up a spot for computers and even making space for the stylists' purses in the back room.

The salons will work independently — running their own schedules and cash registers — while sharing the same space.

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"The salon industry in general can be very catty," McGee said. It was "amazing" when Salon Marielle helped her, she said. "We're all very excited to work together again."

In addition to space from Thirty Hair, the Salon Marielle staff has experienced other offers of support. Customers have offered donations, and businesses in Havre de Grace suggested they could bring food to Ellicott City.

"It's very nice. A lot of people have reached out to help," Medeiros said.

Long term, there are no answers yet for Salon Marielle. Rawlings and Medeiros don't own their building and don't know the fate of the structure. But for now, they look forward to cutting and coloring hair soon.

"We need to get the girls working. We are so blessed to have a place to be," Rawlings said.

pwood@baltsun.com

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