Surviving Sandy: Arrojo Studio
Karie Bennett, stylist, writer and owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California
Multi-faceted salon businesses face multi-faceted problems during a crisis, which can lead to multiple headaches. Arrojo Studio handled Superstorm Sandy with a combination of quick thinking, old-fashioned hard work, and a lot of social media.
Arrojo Studio is probably best known for its celebrity stylist leader, Nick Arrojo, and his role on TLC’s What Not To Wear, the successful makeover television show. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find there’s more to this company than meets the eye. In addition to a downtown salon employing 50 stylists that see an average of 1000 clients a week, Arrojo Cosmetology School has 70 students enrolled, and the Arrojo product line supplies 160 salons across the country with the eponymous salon product line. It would be accurate to say that Arrojo has many moving parts. And all of these parts came to a screeching halt on October 29th, as Superstorm Sandy swept through New York.
There were many events on Arrojo’s calendar the weekend of October 27th. At the same time that Hurricane Sandy was on her way to the Big Apple, 60 Arrojo Ambassadors were eagerly flying east for a long anticipated 4-day education event. Arrojo had rented out a beautiful water view studio for the occasion, and all accommodations had been made in nearby hotels.
As the Ambassadors arrived, news of the storm grew more urgent, and flights were cancelled, so the 60 Ambassadors were stranded.
Meanwhile, back at Arrojo salon, the power went out on Monday night, which meant cancelling another special event, the Arrojo Underground, the salon’s inspirational in-salon hair show. Arrojo’s computer server was on-site, but without power, the client contact information was inaccessible. The salon’s educational director, Loretta O’Connell experienced a power outage in her home, so she got a room at a nearby hotel that still had power, and used it as a satellite office, staying in touch with the salon’s staff, the school’s students, and the salon clients.
Arrojo product distribution was in danger of stranding partner salons nationwide, so Arrojo founder Nick Arrojo, who lives near the salon, came in to the warehouse mid-week and filled orders and made sure they got shipped out.
Back to the Arrojo Ambassadors—after just one day of education and inspiration, the storm forced a cancellation of the remainder of their event. The hotel all 60 people were staying at lost power, so the Arrojo team found new hotels for all of them, since flights were cancelled as well and all Ambassadors weren’t leaving New York anytime soon. Andrew Arrojo, the company’s marketing director, admits, “The initial impact on our company was financial. In addition to the salon closure, we covered the costs on the new hotel rooms, and lost out on our event venue rental—but in comparison to some of the damage suffered by so many individuals and businesses, I’d say we still did all right.”
What’s amazing is that out of all of the people associated with the Arrojo team, only one, an Arrojo Apprentice, suffered major damage to her home out in Long Island. The team has come together to offer that person’s family assistance and support.
And now Arrojo has organized a charity drive to help hurricane victims during the month of November. All product sales proceeds will be donated to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, www.sandyrelief.org. They are hoping to raise $20,000.
At this time, Arrojo, the salon, the school, and the product distribution are all back in business. The mood is one of relief—the power is on, clients are back in the chairs, and everyone is ready to get back to normal.
“The overwhelming feeling in the salon is one of community. During this storm and the aftermath, the group became more important than the individual. We were so touched by how many people cared and reached out to us. Offers of food, shelter, clothing—we were so well supported. When I look back to last week, it’s like time stood still, and now we’re moving ahead again.”