Salons in Potsdam, Massena dropping tanning beds due to taxes, fees, paperwork
Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 8:25 am

By CRAIG FREILICH

Fed up with new federal taxes, state fees, paperwork and health concerns amid a weak economy, at least two St. Lawrence County salons are getting out of the tanning business.

Other local salons are still providing tanning, but the owners aren’t happy about the new taxes and regulations.Sue Weems, owner of the salon Magic Comb in Potsdam, says her tanning beds just aren't worth the trouble anymore. NorthCountryNow photo by Craig Freilich.Sue Weems, owner of the salon Magic Comb in Potsdam, says her tanning beds just aren't worth the trouble anymore. NorthCountryNow photo by Craig Freilich.

“With all the work and care we put into, it’s just not lucrative anymore,” said Sue Weems of Magic Comb in Market Square Mall on Depot Street in Potsdam, who will be finished with the tanning side of her business as of Feb. 26.

“Last year they added a 10 percent tax on tanning,” as part of the federal health care bill, Weems said. “It’s an added burden to collect it, and there’s more paperwork,” she said.

“And the state wants each facility to have a permit, along with a permit fee, and a $50 fee for each individual unit every two years on top of that.

“I think the state is still not considering the small business person and all the burdens they put on us,” she said. “It’s not easy keeping a small business going as it is.”

Lori Collins of Hairitage House at 181 Main St. in Massena said she isn’t offering tanning to her customers anymore, either.

“We had tanning for six years, just as a convenience to our customers,” Collins said.

“With the new fees, and all the paperwork, to have to fill out all those forms, it just isn’t worth it.”

Laurie Swinyer of Laurie’s Casual Cuts & Salon at 12 S. Main St. in Norwood said that she has noticed “a dropoff in business, yes,” and is unhappy about the new rules and fees. She has contemplated giving up that part of her business but has decided she will keep the tanning service for her customers.

Partners Carol Irish and Lisa Cary at the salon Total Image, 29 Main St. in Potsdam thought it over too, but have decided to keep their tanning business going.

Weems said her concern began a couple of years ago when the economy began to go sour, and “I noticed a very big decrease in business as far as tanning goes.”

“I haven’t been able to raise prices either,” Weems said, because she thinks that might have driven customers away.

She said if people have to choose between paying bills and going on vacation, people can easily decide they can’t afford to tan.

“Even students – usually by now we would have had quite a few calls inquiring about prices and packages,” but that has diminished, too.

“We had two or three employees to run tanning, and it’s just ourselves now.”

But that isn’t all. The publicity about the bad effects of tanning with artificial light has probably depressed the business, too.

“I think people are trying to be more health-conscious,” Weems said.

“There’s been a lot of publicity in the last couple of years, all the commentary on the ill effects of UV (ultraviolet) radiation on the skin,” and even with all the regulations about how long to tan, people are still concerned, Weems said.

Collins in Massena said she sold her machine to a customer. Weems in Potsdam said she might be able to sell her machines to customers, too.