“We’ve come together as a community,” Surfside, Florida, business owner says after condo collapse

Emily Sands didn’t hesitate to welcome anyone affected by the deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida, to her local hair salon after the 12-story condominium suddenly crashed to the ground last month.

“We’ve come together as a community. We have opened our doors to have a safe space for the victims that don’t have a safe space to go right now,” Sands said anchor Anne-Marie Green. “Being that we’re a hair salon, as many women know, you get very close to your stylist, and it’s a place that you come to unwind and talk and let loose a little bit and have a therapist in the chair. So we didn’t want to close our doors to those people that needed a place to go.”

Sands’ salon, called Lahh Salon, also partnered with The American Red Cross to give victims free haircuts, blow drys, refreshments, pajamas and toiletries. And the business is supporting first responders by keeping them well fed as they continued their work.

“We also partnered up with local businesses to make sure that the first responders had food that was nutritious so that their immune system was constantly going because this has been exhausting,” Sands said.

The death toll from the condo collapse climbed Tuesday to 95, and is expected to keep rising. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 85 of the victims have been identified, with 14 potentially unaccounted for.

As the community mourns the loss of family members, friends, clients and other loved ones, businesses are also struggling, particularly as they emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our business has definitely slowed down, which is completely understandable. We don’t expect anybody to be rushing into the salon to do their hair when we’re still in a state of mourning,” Sands said.

Yet while she has a company to run and staff to support, she is leery of taking on another government loan she’ll eventually have to repay.

“Right now they’re offering loans to us. However, a lot of us are skeptical of the loans being that we just came out of a pandemic, and we were more hopeful for a grant because we still have to pay back what we borrowed for COVID-19,” she said.

Sands also expects the local economy in Surfside to rebound, lifting up small businesses like Lahh Salon.

“Everybody is completely heartbroken right now as a community. But the beautiful thing is that everybody has come together and is working together to make sure that we’re lifting each other up,” she said.

“I think Surfside is strong and I think we have such a loyal community. Such great clients. Surfside is a little family. So I do think eventually it will bounce back, but I do think this will live with us forever,” Sands said.