When hairstylists Mark DeBolt and Ryan Trygstad first set out to open their eponymous salon in the Flatiron District of Manhattan this spring, navigating a pandemic certainly wasn’t on their To-Do List.
“The biggest hurdle was the unknown,” DeBolt says. “We didn’t know what capacity we could operate at or when we could open our doors.”
While Mark Ryan Salon’s original opening date in April came and went, the duo quickly worked to incorporate the evolving safety guidelines presented to businesses across the country into the blueprint of their new space.
“We spent a lot of time listening to panels and podcasts put on by industry experts, as well as watching the opening procedures/protocols from other salons across the U.S.,” DeBolt says. “We began by imagining one client’s experience from start to finish and made plans so that they would feel comfortable at every step.”
This plan began with sourcing hard-to-find personal protection equipment (PPE) in order to keep their team members and gests safe throughout service, installing a wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispenser for frequent disinfecting and creating a documented system for sanitizing shared spaces between each client.
One benefit to being under construction during Phase 1 of the pandemic was the pair’s ability to adapt Mark Ryan Salon’s layout to accommodate the new safety recommendations. In addition to creating a space that allowed for the suggested six-feet of social distancing between guests, DeBolt and Trygstad were able to ask their general contractor to hang plexiglass between shampoo bowls and at their front desk for added protection, as well as design a large, mobile plexiglass stand that can be moved around the salon as needed.
During quarantine, DeBolt and Trygstad relied heavily on virtual communications with team members in order to paint an atmosphere of safety and build a bond of trust among new hires, joining the Mark Ryan team was a leap of faith for many of the stylists who had left other places of employment in favor of the then-unfinished salon. Despite the setback, the shutdown had an unexpectedly positive impact on strengthening the team and fueling excitement for the salon’s future, according to DeBolt.
“During the shutdown, we stayed connected with our team. We had one-on-one conversations to talk about the salon and to hear about how they were doing. We hosted Zoom classes about hair color, classes about our salon recycling iniatives and product knowledge trainings. We had a seminar on sanitation and what policies and procedures we were enacting to make the salon a safe and healthy environment. We wanted to stay connected and we believe that the time we spent together before opening helped us grow together in an exciting and special way to create something new.”
With team members inspired and motivated for the next chapter, it was time for the couple to turn their attention to their clients. DeBolt and Trystad, who have previously worked with the likes of Naomi Watts, Sandra Bullock, Emma Roberts and other celebrity clientele, wanted to create an environment that fostered a strong sense of authenticity that catered to both beauty-conscious and beauty-devoted guests.
“We believe that clients are more than their hair,” DeBolt says of the salon’s mission. “By striving to lasting relationships, our team of professionals uses a nuanced understanding of their clients to bring style to life in the most authentic, creative way possible. We believe there’s no one definition of beauty. Instead, we believe the best tool for bringing out your authentic self is showing you ours.”
To ensure the safety of everyone in the salon, DeBolt and Trygstad created new onsite policies that extended to everyone who entered the space, like taking temperatures, enforcing masks, and sealed bags for personal belongings.
Technology played a key role in the salon’s framework as well, as DeBolt and Trygstad chose STX Cloud salon software to manage the daily operations of Mark Ryan Salon. When the team received the green light to proceed with the salon’s grand opening in June, the system became a constant companion to DeBolt as he handled the sudden influx of appointment requests from guests who were desperate to get back in the chair.
“We love everything about STX, and STX Cloud is brilliant,” Our team members started to tell their clients about coming to the salon three weeks before we opened. I received a flood of inquiries that I could not have imagined I was able to book appointments from anywhere I had internet connection.”
The team also faced the obstacle of adhering to indoor capacity guidelines, ultimately choosing to divide into different groups working alternating days in the salon. STX Cloud’s ability to accommodate different service groups, service timing and scalable pricing for every stylist allowed Mark Ryan Salon’s diverse group of stylists and colorists to easily meet the demands of their clientele and organize their appointment book in the most time-effective way given the limited availability.
“Pre-appointment communication with COVID-19 was incredibly important. Our salon guests needed to see and read all of the measures we put in place to keep them safe and healthy. STX Cloud’s ability to generate client emails, link to websites and create automated emails is incredible. We are able to track real time responses to our health questionnaire and edit those communications easily.”
Now a few months into service, Mark Ryan Salon found its groove. As it welcomes a steady stream of clients through its doors every day, it’s clear that the time and dedication DeBolt and Trygstad poured into making their namesake a safe haven for all has paid off.
“We spent a lot of time making these plans, obtaining materials and talking with out team to make sure they felt safe and ready to take care of our salon guests. We have received emails from clients applauding our protocols or their experience int the salon, and these compliments mean the most to us,” DeBolt says of the response. “We put so much heart into making people safe.”
As for the state of the industry going full steam ahead into this ‘new normal’ of 2020 and beyond? DeBolt has faith that the resilience and empathy of stylists will carry salons down a path of deeper creativity and stronger relationships with clients.
“We are optimistic for the future. We are focused on creating moments of elevation or experiences that rise above the ordinary for our salon guests. People will come because of how we make them feel. Now is the time for extra compassion and gratitude.”
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