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With the fast pace of life these days, time and money are currencies that matter most, making express bars extremely popular. Wendy Bélanger, Sam Villa Ambassador, International Redken Artist and owner of Influence. The Salon, opened Identity. The Express Bar @identityexpressbar in December 2023.  A one stop beauty bar in Calgary, Alberta, offering express services at a reasonable price.  See it here.

What inspired you to open a beauty bar?

"I was traveling a lot educationg through North America and I would come home and have 48 hours to do all of my 'maintenance' before leaving again. I wasw driving to the south end of the city for brows, the north for lashes, needing a root touchup and a blow dry, and finding I just didn't have enought time to drive everywhere and coordinate appointments. I always felt rushed and unorganized and thought, "Why aren't we doing this all under one roof?'"

What experiences do you offer in the beauty bar?

"We have put small individual express bars all under one roof:

  • Root Touchup Bar: $48 for a root touchup up to 1”. Perfect for the woman who needs a touchup within 2 to 3 weeks and doesn’t want to wait until her next salon visit. Guests can leave after hair is rinsed or they can head downstairs and book into the blow dry bar.
  • Brow Bar: A quick cleanup with threading or tweezing.
  • Blow Dry Bar: $48 for a beautiful blow dry that will last for a week - no need for doing hair at home again!
  • Boutique: we like to support local artists in fashion and jewelry This area is ever changing
  • Makeup: A top artist in the industry is on-call to do make up.
  • Champagne and Coffee Bar: Who doesn’t like bubbles?
  • Hair Treatments and more!"

How is it different than your current business, Influence. The Salon?

Identity is an express bar.We do not offer full services like cuts or lightening services. It’s a place to go in between visits to the salon. For example, a woman books an average of eight visits to the salon every year. Many times, halfway between visits they wish they could have someone else do their hair, or don’t want to wait another couple weeks before they can get their roots covered. Now they don’t have to!!

Were there any challenge in opening a second location? 

Opening any business has its challenges, the hardest part was opening during the busy season of the year (December). I felt like I couldn’t take my eye off the prize or my foot off the gas at Influence. The Salon (my current company), yet I had to train and prepare to introduce and execute a whole new concept for the express bar. I had to be clear on my business plan, vision, and be sure that I wasn’t taking away from my existing business, physically or financially.

How does the staffing differ in each location? 

One of the biggest things we’re proud of is how staffing has gone for this project. In this industry, it’s hard for new salon professionals to come out of school and find a job. There is a reason why only 5% of people continue to be successful. Often, it’s hard for a salon owner to offer jobs to new stylists because they don’t have the budget to support the added overhead. Also, new salon professionals can often find themselves being hired in a salon as the “help” where they are not actually doing hair.They are sweeping and cleaning which often leads to loss of confidence and quitting the industry. 

At Identity. The Express Bar, we hire new salon professionals, 8 to 10 at a time, and their hands are in hair immediately.They’re trained extensively in our program and culture, and we are able to create so many job opportunities.

How important is salon environment, location and tool selection?

"Literally everything matters. We have complimentary heated underground parking, pretty much unheard of in a downtown location. And we’re located three doors down from our sister salon Influence. The Salon, strategically done so if something full service is needed for a guest, we can accommodate that too.

Each of our stations in both the salon and beauty bar has a Professional Light Ionic Blow Dryer, Signature Series Sleekr Professional Straightening Iron and Textur Professional Texturizing Iron and Spring Curling Iron 1”.  We have to be ready for anything our guest needs.

When I am on stage, or doing any high-profile hair, I always make sure I have Sam Villa tools in my kit.  Why would we treat our guests in the salon any different? I used to wonder if people would find them too expensive to purchase, but what I’ve learned is if something performs, price doesn’t matter. And trust me when I tell you Sam Villa tools perform!

The most unique tool we have for sure is the Textur iron.  Women are always back combing their hair for volume which isn’t great of hair.  When you compress hair at the base of the crown of the head with the Textur iron, it acts like a spring that lifts up hair and it stays until your next shampoo. It’s literally magic! 

Our tagline is, 'Use what I use, and do what I do, and your hair will look like it does when I do it.' There is not a thing that we use on a guest’s hair that we don’t offer for them to take home to re-create the look."

About Sam Villa: Sam Villa is Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of the Sam Villa Company (Allvus, LLC), a leading education and styling tool company for the professional hair industry. He is also Global Artistic Ambassador for Redken 5th Avenue, a L’Oreal brand. Villa is the recipient of the 2023 INKD Icon Leadership Award, 2021 NAHA Educator of the Year, Hair Awards USA Hall of Fame Inductee, 2021 AHP Icon Stylist Influencer of the Year, 2020 International Hairdressing Awards ‘International Hair Influencer of the Year,’ the 2017 NAHA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Intercoiffure America/Canada Member, Behind the Chair Stylist Choice Award Winner for Favorite Platform Artist and Educator (2012, 2011 and 2007) and Favorite Overall Educator of the Year (2015). His inspiring education and innovative ergonomic styling tools can be experienced on samvilla.com. The Sam Villa brand brings free digital education to everyone including hot tips and techniques, as well as access to livestreamed educational events. The company also offers professional tools for consumers so they can achieve salon-quality results at home with minimum effort. 

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