“The salon could’ve never purchased advertising with that kind of impact,” said Auberry. “We’re astounded by how many people say, ‘We saw you on (the news) this morning.’ It gets our message out in a very subtle way.” Based on guest satisfaction surveys, he estimates that 24% of their new clients come from hearing about their events.
Building a Movement
Rachel DeMolfetto and Cynthia Sansone are two of five sisters who watched helplessly as their bright-eyed mother became sullen and depressed as she battled cancer in the 1980s. “It was the time of AIDS, and the salon she went to didn’t know how to care for a client with cancer,” says Sansone. “She was a double-processed blonde and they didn’t know how to help her with her hair, and we watched her endure the stares and the whispers and at the time we didn’t have the tools to help her. She passed in 1989.”
Today, the sisters have those tools and they are putting them to good use. Together, they own Racine Salon de Beaute and Spa in Islip, New York, and 10 years ago they started opening their salon and spa once a month on Monday afternoons (MondaysatRacine.org) and giving away support, comfort and services to people who are receiving treatments for cancer. Over time the program, the program has grown to become a safe have for cancer patients as well as an important community resource center that’s helped hundreds of women deal with their affliction in a positive and caring way.
In 2010, an oncology nurse wrote a blog about the salon in The New York Times where she revealed that a cancer patient’s first question often is “Am I going to lose my hair?” That led HBO Films to Racine’s doorstep and they took two years to shoot the documentary <I>Mondays at Racine<I> which was nominated for an Oscar in 2013. The movie brought attention, and the attention brought donations, which urged the sisters to open their doors every Monday afternoon, file for non-profit status and think about how to grow this movement even bigger.
Over the course of a decade, they’ve gathered quite a bit of knowledge about offering services to clients who are undergoing cancer treatment and they are putting that together in a inch-thick manual they are calling the Mondays at Racine Toolkit and offering it to salons that want to launch similar effort in their own establishments. “You already have the real estate, and you can start slowly without a lot of cost,” says Sansone. “But there are a lot of protocols for dealing with cancer patients—from what services you can do and how you can do them safely to what you can say to someone before shaving their head. ”