When Cindy Christen closed her salon to rent a suite, she brought her staff along and made sure they were ready to go Indie.
Salon owners who are relocating or closing due to huge rent increases have two main concerns: How to keep their clients and how to take care of their staff. In salons, relationships with both lean more toward “friends and family” than strictly business. That’s why when Cindy Christen’s lease-renewal loomed ahead, she began planning how she and her friend of 14 years and employee for nine, Andi Loehrer, could stay together. She also wanted her part-time employee, Lilly McManigle, to continue to be part of her life, so she started with honesty.
“I always knew there would come a time when I would want to de-stress and not be in charge of everything,” says Cindy. “After nine years in business, the rent had been rising exponentially, and the nature of the office building in which my salon was located had changed—people kept interrupting us to ask where other businesses were. Also, the neighborhood was becoming less safe. So, I was upfront with both of them and let them know that I was going to rent somewhere once the lease expired.”
While Cindy, who has a BS in Biology and went to cosmetology school at the age of 38, had been sharing business information for some time, she made the bold move of suggesting that Andi rent a chair four months before the anticipated rent increase. This way, she could be fully prepared to fly solo. “I wanted her to have her LLC and bookkeeping ready to go, and understand how to buy and price products,” says Cindy. “I didn’t want her to look at me like a deer in the headlights and wonder what I got her into—she’s like family.”
Homes of Their Own
Next, Cindy got to work researching options. “None of us really wanted the drama of traditional chair rental, we’re so close-knit,” says Cindy. “Then, I saw an ad for Salons by JC in Waite Park, MN, on my Instagram account, watched the video and sent them a text.”
Cindy and Andi toured the suites together, loved the business model and signed leases for side-by-side suites. When Lilly, who had moved out of state temporarily returned, she happily discovered that a suite right next to Cindy’s and Andi’s was available.
“Salons by JC is clean and safe, plus we can have our suites next to one another and still do wedding parties together,” says Cindy. “I loved having a salon for nine years and building an incredible business but now, I work about the same number of hours and keep significantly more money. The utilities and Wi-Fi are included in the rent, and I had the opportunity to get liability insurance for far less I’d get with an independent insurance agent. Sharon, the concierge, even does my laundry! When I owned a salon, there were times when after I paid the rent, utilities and other bills, I went unpaid, even though I had a large clientele.”
Men, Women and Prom-Goers
Cindy Christen at Salons by JC is known as an upscale but informal place that welcomes everyone. Cindy, who specializes in cuts, color and curly hair, sees as many men as she does women, partly because as the mother of three boys she can talk sports, but also because she stays on top of barbering trends and techniques.
“I’m always researching and looking for the newest thing,” she says. “I follow other artists who are on the cutting edge, whose work appeals to the everyday person. Because of my science background, I look for healthy products, such as hair color with no PPDs (CHI by Farouk). I also use AG Haircosmetics hair care because it contains no salt, parabens, DEA, gluten or sulfates.”
Cindy says her main goals are protect her health and the health of her clients, and make them feel good about themselves, whether they want a classic bob or purple hair color. “I always share ways to update looks like the bob, so that my clients can feel comfortable but stay current,” she adds. “I have curly hair myself and I know it’s difficult to find someone to cut it correctly—I fix a lot of other salon’s curly hair cuts.”
Additionally, because Cindy had a strong, supportive client base that followed her to her suite, she does tons of prom styling for girls whose mothers had brought them to her salon as grade schoolers. Now, as high schoolers, they not only trust her, they refer her to younger girls in their schools.
Thanks to the convenient Salons by JC location, Cindy not only maintained all her clients, she continually gets new ones. How? Through community involvement, such as styling wigs for plays and musicals (Steel Magnolias, Carmen) at the local theatre company, and by doing hair for a member of the Minnesota Dance Ensemble. Also, she always takes part in community fundraisers for causes her clients care about.
“It’s my way of being seen and keeping my name out there,” she says.
Now, Cindy is loving her new suite business and is staying stress-free by asking clients to pre-book their holiday services in October. “I want to see just how much I have to extend my hours for November and December,” she says. Once her books are nearly full, she can take off any days she wants, which is just another thing she loves about renting a suite at Salons by JC.