Finding the Perfect Location

Finding the prime location for your new salon depends on the kind of salon you hope to have. 

In the ongoing blog series, "Owners Forum," Karie Bennett, owner of Atelier Salon and Spa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California, helps a future salon owner decide on the perfect location for her new venture:

Dear Karie: I'm taking the plunge and am going to open my own salon, but I'm looking for the perfect location. What do you look for when you decide on a location?

"I've now built three salons in three different types of locations: an off-street courtyard with no walk-by traffic, a main street location with high traffic, and a less traveled streetfront location with lower traffic. They have all been successful in their own ways.

"The simplest answer I can give you is three words: location, location, location.

"The answer to this question is really dependent on what kind of a salon business you want to run.

"My first Atelier was in an off-street courtyard, and I just wanted to do hair. I didn't want a lot of people coming in unless they had an appointment, and just wanted to work on my clients. I had just three chairs, one for me, one for a friend who rented it, and one for my assistant. In five years time, we were maxed out with no opportunity for growth. Then Aveda offered me a location at a high-end, high traffic outdoor lifestyle center, and life changed. The location is amazing, exciting, and has lots of exposure. I have a completely different kind of business now, in large part to the location. The third salon, our "studio," is also at this lifestyle center, but on a side street with less traffic. We count on the main street location salon to overflow into the studio, and now those artists have guests that request them.

"In my small courtyard salon, I really only had to bring clients to my chair. In my larger salon and the one I opened three years ago, I need to bring clients to 10 chairs, 7 days a week.

"Another difference is the corporate landlord vs. the individual landlord. My three-chair salon had a landlord that didn't care when I opened in the morning or closed in the evening, as long as the rent check was on time and I kept the storefront clean and in working order. My second and third locations, in the lifestyle center, have a corporate landlord, and there are minimum hours, marketing fees, percentage rent clauses, and many other legal considerations. But, they keep the environment clean and beautiful, and do lots of marketing for the merchants, which draw more guests to our door.

"All of the stores at this lifestyle center stay open till 9 pm, like we do, so there are shoppers in and out of the stores, and the center is bustling at night. The three-chair salon was in a small village-type town where the sidewalks roll up at 6 pm. It was a completely different business model. I've had to do a different kind of marketing for each location. The higher-exposure location obviously has more people seeing it, and that is marketing.

"It all depends on the kind of business you want to run, what you want to do long-term, and whether you work best on your own, or surrounded by other people.

"I prefer the energy of sharing my knowledge with other artists, as well as having inspiration all around me. Atelier has really grown up.

"Any thoughts on identifying the perfect salon location? Please share your own advice in our comments section!"

Karie Bennett's career in the beauty industry is approaching the 30-year mark and shows no signs of slowing. Bennett and her salon, Atelier Salon Spa in San Jose, CA, have captured a number of industry awards, including the Global Salon Business Award, the SALON TODAY 200 and the client philosophy and marketing finalist for the 2010 NAHA Master of Business Award. Bennett continues to share her knowledge to help a new generation of hair artists and owners find their way to success.

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