IT WAS a 21st birthday to savour for an Andover beauty therapist, who finally unveiled her new salon this week after coronavirus almost scuppered her plans.

Shelby Bennett spent months preparing to open her new salon in George Yard, with a launch date of March 23 pencilled in the diary.

Of course, two days before then, the country went into lockdown and Shelby was hit with the devastating news that the salon would not be opening.

“It was heart-breaking,” she told the Advertiser, “I’d never been so distraught before.”

But almost four months later, and after the government announced that beauty salons, spas and nail bars will be able to reopen next week, Shelby finally has lift off.

The salon itself will open to customers on Tuesday, July 14, and the 21-year-old Andover girl says she can’t wait to finally get going.

“I’m so excited because no one’s really seen it yet,” she said.

“It’s amazing, everyone’s been so supportive and they’re so excited to get here.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing since the prime minister gave salons the greenlight to reopen. Shelby says she will only be able to offer nail treatments, with her lashes, makeup and tanning services on hold for the time being.

Plus, the PM’s three-day notice period meant the last few days have been quite the scramble.

“Yesterday I was so stressed,” Shelby said.

“I was pulling my hair out with how I could get everything ready in three days. I came down here late last night to clean the whole place just to be prepared.”

As well as the deep clean – late into the night before her 21st birthday – Shelby has implemented a host of safety measures in line with government guidelines.

She will be taking clients’ temperatures on entry, texting people when their appointments are ready, wearing an array of masks, visors, aprons and other protective equipment, and she’s also ensuring she is the only person working in the whole salon.

On top of it all, she’s completed a Barbicide Covid-19 certification course, which demonstrates her commitment to delivering a safe service.

Shelby had previously been operating her business from a converted office in her parents’ home. But after two years, she started the process of opening her own premises back in August of last year.

Part of the start-up process saw her apply for an Independent Business Retailer grant from Test Valley Borough Council.

The grants are typically paid in two tranches, once after three months and then again after another six. But for Shelby, the three-month trigger fell in the middle of the pandemic and her plans were almost compromised once more.

Thankfully, the council came through and offered her the grant anyway in a show of solidarity with its newest independent business.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “The council is proud to have supported this brand new business in the middle of the high street and the middle of a pandemic.

“We’re sticking with businesses through thick and thin and we’re being proactive in our support.”

Shelby's salon will be open from 9am on Tuesday. For more information search 'ShelbyBennett beauty' on Facebook.