Beauty industry finds there is strength in numbers


The My Salon Suite concept features individual spaces for tenants working in the health and beauty industry. Courtesy My Salon Suite

Barbie Salerno wants her tenants to be successful.

She’s doesn’t like to use the term “turned away,” but she has encouraged some potential tenants to further root themselves in the beauty industry before returning to lease a space at Salerno’s My Salon Suite, 3582 29th St. SE.

“I’ve advised that they build their clientele base, work in a salon and learn the business,” she said. “I’d rather they be successful than for it to not work out for them.”

My Salon Suite was recently named one of the Top 200 Franchises by Franchise Business Review. The Grand Rapids location is a complex of 20 fully furnished suites where health and beauty professionals can set up an independent business.

The building is a destination, Salerno said. It isn’t conducive to those trying to build a following and is not walk-in friendly.

“It’s really meant for those that are well established and bringing their clientele with them,” she said.

Salerno said My Salon gives experienced health and beauty professionals a place they can call their own, without a lot of the expensive overhead and the work that usually is involved in establishing a new salon.

“It takes the best professionals in the industry and allows them to pursue the American dream by taking on their own business,” she said. “It allows them to take that step forward without taking on the expenses and responsibilities they would have running their own traditional salon.”

Currently, Salerno’s My Salon Suite has 19 of its 20 spaces filled, including hair stylists, massage therapist, nail technician, skin care specialist and spray tanner. Some of the tenants cross-market and refer to each other, she said.

“It allows for quite a bit under one roof,” Salerno said of the services offered.

Salerno had worked as a hair stylist for more than a decade when she decided she wanted to do more. She looked at opening a new salon or purchasing an established salon. Each opportunity fell through.

Then she learned about My Salon Suite and purchased and opened a franchise two years ago. In December, Salerno retired as a stylist and began to focus solely on running the operation.

The spaces didn’t fill up right away, but she wasn’t discouraged as she knew it was important to fill the spaces with the right tenants.

“It was a slow build-up,” she said. “Just getting the right people into the space is a big step. It’s a big decision, and those that did decide to move forward have done really well. You never know what’s going to happen when you run a business, but it’s been a very low turnover.”

The low turnover rate is largely because Salerno is catering to established professionals who want to strike out on their own and will be able to keep themselves afloat with an existing clientele.

Salerno said she finds tenants in a variety of ways, including social media, Craigslist and direct mail. Often, she gives a confidential tour to a prospective tenant.

“They don’t want anyone to know they’re interested; (they) don’t want their boss to find out,” she said. “Multiple tenants have already owned their own salon.”

Spaces vary in size, and Salerno compared them to rooms on a cruise ship: smaller spaces with fewer or smaller windows are priced cheaper than larger rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. She said she tries to keep the start-up costs minimal, offering an initial discounted rent and personalized professional painting of the space prior to move-in.

She said the facility is completely secure, with its doors locked 24/7, opened by buzzers in each suite so the tenants can work the hours they want and feel completely safe.

“It’s a great concept for people who want to take their career a step forward,” she said. “These are the best in their industry, allowed to do what they do best.”

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