‘We have a family to support’ | Couple opens hair salon inside Clay County home, now told to close up shop

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — A hairstylist duo opened their dream salon at their new house in Clay County, so they could work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and take care of their children.

Now, they said code enforcement told them they to need to close up shop.

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When Leighann Pitts and Carla McCarthy bought the house in February 2021, the garage was already converted into a room.

They spent around $15,000 to transform it into a hair salon.

“Americans are working from home, why can’t we work from home?” Pitts asked.

Pitts and McCarthy have three children. Two of their boys have cerebral palsy and are in wheelchairs. Working from home, gives them for time to spend together as a family.

“This is like a dream come true situation for the boys and for us,” McCarthy said.

Before the at-home hair salon opened, Pitts and McCarthy said they had a state inspector swing by.

“We got a state licensing person to come out here and look at the house,” Pitts said. “We got fully licensed after the inspection.”

Pitts said the state inspector told them hairdressers could work from home under Florida’s Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act, which states licensed hair stylists may provide “services outside of a licensed salon.”

After a couple of weeks operating the at-home hair salon, they said they were surprised when they received a letter in the mail from Clay County Code Enforcement that said they were in violation of a “business being conducted from residentially zoned property (Beauty Shops and Barber Shops).”

The letter said the violation must be corrected by April 24, or they would have to shut down the hair salon.

According to Clay County’s Planning and Zoning, home occupations for administrative/clerical uses only may be permitted as a conditional use within certain zones. However, beauty shops and barber shops fall under professions or occupations that are expressly prohibited as home occupations. You can read the full list by clicking here.

The owners said their clients feel safer getting their hair down at their house.

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“We have a lot of older clients. They love how intimate and private it is here and how they’re not out in public getting their hair done,” McCarthy said.

At the very least, Pitts and McCarthy are asking the county for an extension, so they can figure out what to do next.

“We’re just trying to make a living, like an honest living,” McCarthy said.