The shuttering last week of Tides Hair Salon, seen here under construction in 2009, left some employees wondering about their jobs.
A tussle between the owner of a House salon and Congressional administrators has cost at least two employees their jobs and left three stylists facing an uncertain future.
Tides Salon, which opened with new renovations in 2010, permanently closed Friday after the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer terminated the private company’s lease a month ago.
In recent weeks, salon owner Vincent Marvaso and the CAO traded unconfirmed accusations of breached contracts and employee abuse.
On Thursday, House lawyers told three stylists the salon would remain open and that they could keep cutting hair as independent contractors until a new contractor is found, a process that could take up to four months.
Although the House has typically allowed former employees of outgoing contractors to work for the new bidder, the stylists do not know whether the new salon owner will be obligated to hire them.
In order to operate independently, the stylists needed to purchase insurance, hair products and manicure and pedicure materials, which they normally sourced from Tides. They had to collect everything over the weekend if they hoped to start work by this morning.
Two other salon employees were not told directly about their work status, but they learned last week from their former boss that they would have to turn in their IDs.
Three of the five former Tides employees are single mothers who prefer working for the House salon because of the free weekends.
“I don’t want to work on weekends — I’d never see my son on the weekends,” said Mary Barillas, who has a 1-year-old. Most salons, she added, require stylists to work weekends. Barillas plans to continue cutting hair at the House salon.
The House has offered salon services for more than 40 years, but survey questions forwarded to staffers in March suggested the House was reconsidering whether it wanted a hair salon at all.
The CAO asked staffers how often they use various private entities including the Zipcar car-rental service, the House Learning Center and the Cobbler’s Bench Shoe Shine and Repair. Almost every question, however, centered on Tides, including how often staffers patronized Tides and what services they used.
CAO spokesman Dan Weiser wouldn’t confirm whether a re-evaluation occurred.
Employees of the salon were also concerned about the long wait they had to endure to find out their futures.
Shala Christiansen, Tides’ former manager who hoped to continue working at the House, called the CAO several times a week for the past month inquiring about the office’s plan for Tides employees. CAO told her they couldn’t answer her questions for “legal reasons.”
“We wanted to contact the employees a month ago, and we understand their concerns, but there were legal constraints,” Weiser said.
Vittoria Pezzani, an aspiring hairstylist and receptionist at the salon, also hoped to stay.
After she heard Tides was closing a month ago, she halfheartedly began looking for a new job, still in denial about Tides’ closure.
“With this place recently remodeled, I couldn’t believe it,” she said, admitting that even last week she continued making referrals. “If Tides really closed, I felt deep down that a new owner would come in. But I really didn’t think the staff would be left out.”
By Wednesday, however, she started having doubts and stepping up her Craigslist jobs search. Now she’s job-hunting full time. She and Christiansen were asked to turn in their House badges and parking stickers Friday.
“How hard is it to call me and talk to me?” Christiansen asked. “I don’t expect the House to keep my job, but just tell me what’s up.”
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.