It was 10 years ago that we opened our second location. We had been running a very successful salon called Statik and we had run out of chairs for our apprentices once they finished their training. Our growth had been organic, not planned. We did good hair, gave great service and had a loyal fan base that supported us through our evolution from a four chair salon operated by just my wife and I into a 12 chair salon bursting at the seams.
The salon across the street had turned off their lights and they never came back on. I heard some rumours about the owner doing a midnight move so I contacted the landlord to find out what was happening, eventually taking over the space, paying the other guy’s back-rent and splitting my team in half, my wife moving across the street to run the new salon. We called it Caramel. And it blew up.
Fast forward a decade and several locations later (I’m a recovering addict of designing and building hair salons) and we had our second location of Caramel, this one 45 minutes from the other in an upscale new outdoor shopping centre. The odds were against us from the beginning, as we were going into a new city without a single established stylist, but we pushed through and built an OK business. But the growth has been slow, even stagnant.
And after three years of not being profitable, we are closing this location.
It’s the first time we have downsized. Ever. I have decided I simply don’t have the energy to dedicate to taking that business to the point of profitability. Running multiple locations is very hard in any business, but the hair salon business is, well, special. A salon and it’s stylists require a lot more than policy and procedure, and with three salons and two academies, I had created a business that was suffering everywhere. Also at 46 years old with two children, my attention has become so divided that rather than dedicate renewed energy I don’t feel I have, it’s time to retreat a little and regroup.
So we are closing our beautiful South Surrey location next week. Luckily I have found a buyer for the lease and the furnishings and the salon will go on under a different and well-known brand. I have also been able to keep everyone employed who wishes to stay with me by moving them into our Vancouver Hairdressing Academy location less than 10 minutes away. If you’re a client, your stylist is going to take care of you in our Panorama location after June 25th. Same phone number.
I got out OK, a little bit lighter in the wallet but not broke. I’m lucky in that I stuck it out probably longer than I should have. I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot worse. Salon ownership can and most often does kick your ass at some point in your life and multiple salons are an entirely different ballgame. Most salon owners don’t have a realistic exit strategy. We invest more and expand when things are booming and we usually try to get out when things are declining, which is the exact opposite of what a business is supposed to do. And like many in our industry, my ego played a huge part in my company’s growth. It served me well for a while though.
But I’m a lot older and a little wiser now. The ego left the building a while back and my thinking is clearer. As much as I wish I was, I’m not Van Council or Ray Civello or Suki. I am a fighter and I have done some good things in this industry, but I haven’t continued to do the work needed in order to sustain the growth. Ultimately I’m a little too lazy to be where I am if I’m being honest.
Multiple locations can be wonderful but is a completely animal to the average salon owner. Hats off to those who do it well.
And for those of us who struggle and maybe have not done as well as we would have liked, there is no shame in having tried. Just know when to walk away.