Originally created 12/23/99

Local businesses swamped during holidays



Where does Santa go to get his hair done when he's not at the North Pole? To Donna Brown of the Hair Gallery, his stylist of 13 years.

Like many other service providers, Ms. Brown is booked solid until Jan. 1. Getting a last-minute appointment with her now would be as difficult as finding a rare pack of Japanese Pokemon cards.

But Santa is special. He's got a standing appointment until the big day. After all, Santa has to look his best. And only his hairdresser knows for sure what his real hair color is.

"It's just swamped. This time of the year is our busiest time," Ms. Brown said. "It's always busier this time of year than any other time because people are getting their hair done for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. I've got 15 on today's schedule."

The holidays are not only a boon to retailers cashing in on gift buying, it's the busiest time of year for those who provide services -- housekeepers, pet groomers and manicurists.

"Our work almost doubles for the next two weeks," said Robert Ledford, owner of Merry Maids in Augusta. "Thursdays and Fridays, don't call -- we're booked. We gear up in September and October hiring the employees that we want. Now we're in the home stretch for the holidays. The good news is that employees get a lot of tips during the holidays, so it is not a good time for them to take off."

It's important for everybody to look their best during the holidays, even the family pet.

"We're busy the week before any major holiday because everybody has to be pretty for the holidays," said Jana Lord, co-owner of D'Tails Pet Grooming on Walton Way Extension. "We usually come in early and work late. On a busy day, we'll groom 25 to 30 dogs between the two of us."

Business usually shifts to the other extreme after Jan. 1. Once wide open, it slows to a trickle.

"Everything slows down and comes to a halt," Ms. Brown said. "We're not busy again until February -- around Valentine's Day. I rent movies and am often able to watch a whole movie between customers. It's that dead."

Mr. Ledford said he hopes to cultivate long-term customers from seasonal listings his maid service gets during the holidays.

"My goal when I sign somebody up is that I want to clean their house for at least the next five years," Mr. Ledford said. "I know that's not a reality because people's needs change. But the people I sign up in December, I'm hoping they'll be biweekly customers."

After working long hours, Ms. Lord said she'll welcome the break.

"We like having ups and downs because when it's real slow, it gives us a chance to catch up on everything else," she said. "We enjoy the really busy times, but otherwise it would burn us out. It's just part of the business. If you don't like the ups and downs, then you're in the wrong business."

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113.