By Tracy Thompson
the Times 

Business owner sets her own standards


Tracy Thompson

Ellen Saager has been taking care of her local clients for 33 years.

WALLA WALLA—Individual business owners in Walla Walla are all managing Governor Inslee's mask wearing proclamation in their own unique ways. Cugini's Italian Import Foods on Wallula in Walla Walla posted a sign noting masks were required, but clothing was optional!

At Ellen's Cutting Edge Barbershop, notices on the door required masks, as well as a prior appointment to get a cut.

I had been a frequent customer of Saager's since I moved to town nine years ago-as it was where I had my two young sons' hair cut when they were in grade school. Unable to get an appointment with my usual stylist until late July, I thought I would give Saager a try to tame my COVID-19 mop.

One phone call to Ellen and I was all booked for the next day.

Owned and operated by the delightful Ellen Saager for 33 years now, the charming shop is in the Flatiron building mere blocks away from the Whitman campus.

When I arrived, an elderly gentleman was just departing, leaving a rather impressive collection of bright grey hair on the floor of the shop. Yep, it turned out, that this was his first COVID-19 haircut, too.

My homemade cloth mask had elastic straps that encircled my head, so Saager gave me a disposable mask with ear elastics which I then wore during the cut.

While I was in the chair, Saager received a call for a cut and calmly asked the caller if they were from Walla Walla. Nope, as it turned out they were from the Tri-Cities. Saager replied that she was only serving her regular clients currently and would not be able to provide a haircut. Saager mentioned that she had had folks call from as far away as Yakima to try to schedule a haircut.

Just the day prior, one older gentleman calmly read the signs on her door, apparently decided they did not apply to him, and walked right into the shop with no mask on, demanding a cut.

Saager mentioned her appointment-only policy, confirmed that the gentleman had none, and when he started to complain, she asked him politely to leave.

Saager noted that she had been effectively out of work for three months and that she was trying to do everything possible to keep herself, and her clients safe. She noted that many of her long-time clients are elderly and feels a special responsibility to them. In these uncertain times, it was refreshing to see a business owner with clear, confident boundaries, and I am grateful for her efforts to keep herself, and her clients safe.


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