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OWNER TO OWNER: 7 Reasons Salon-Capri Thrives in Their Competitive Salon Market

May 17, 2018 | 11:53 AM
Laura, Gina, Nicholas and Amy Penna are the multi-generational owners of Salon-Capri in the Boston area.
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Nicholas Penna, Sr and Gina Penna opened the first Salon-Capri in 1967.
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The Penna’s kids took over the salon in 2000. Gina still does hair four days a week.
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The Pennas credit their L’Oréal Professionnel partner with providing the product innovation that keeps clients and stylists engaged.  
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“We view ourselves as employees of the brand,” says Nick Penna.
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 The reception area in Dedham, MA—one of three locations.
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Salon-Capri combines old-fashioned family traditions and customer service with modern marketing and promotion.
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Boston-area salon owners like to joke that you can’t swing a cat without hitting a salon in their neighborhood—there are multiple salons on every block! And it’s not only about quantity in Boston, it’s also about quality. The city is known for delivering high quality hairdressing and for salon businesses that are exceedingly well-run. So how has Salon-Capri—with three salons and an academy--managed to not only survive over the last 50 years, but also thrive, with a large and diverse clientele that pledges its loyalty to the company? Here’s a look at their success.

For more information about Salon-Capri, visit www.saloncapri.com.

The Culture is All About Family. Salon-Capri is a multi-generational business. Gina and Nicholas Penna launched the first salon in 1967, and today, their son Nicholas, their daughter Laura and Nicholas’ wife Amy own and run the business, which has received numerous “Best of Boston” awards and has twice been named to ELLE magazine’s Top 100 Salons. Gina still does hair four days a week, as do Nick, Laura and Amy. “We’re on the floor, we’re approachable,” Nick says. “We never ask anyone on the staff to do anything we’re not willing to do. We started our careers as Salon-Capri employees, and we still think of ourselves as employees for our own brand.”

They Believe in Education, 100%. Every Salon-Capri stylist starts out in a two-year apprentice program, which covers intensive training in color, cutting, business-building, comportment, customer service and product knowledge. Classes for apprentices are mandatory twice a month. Advanced education is also mandatory for the rest of the staff—four times a year, educators from L’Oréal Professionnel provide classes on business, color, cutting and a “wild card” topic—this year it’s social media best practices.

The Team Lives the Brand. The retention rate for apprentices is 95% and more than 75% of the staff completed the apprentice program after being recruited right out of cosmetology school. As a result, there is consistency and buy-in to the Salon-Capri brand and mission—which includes a friendly, family vibe and outstanding customer service. “We’re also very transparent with our numbers,” Nick adds. “We post numbers, we run retail incentives, we touch base with staff each quarter on their goals and numbers. This creates a healthy, unified environment across all our locations.”

They Expanded Organically. When Nick, Laura and Amy took over the business in 2000, they closed the original Salon-Capri location because they had outgrown the space and the neighborhood. They moved to Newton first and gradually opened two more locations. “It took 10 years to open the second location,” Nick says. “It was organic. Thankfully we have an amazing ability to retain employees and clients, so we kept growing, and we waited until it felt right to expand each time.”

Systems + Autonomy Keep 3 Locations Running Smoothly. It’s never easy to manage multiple locations. “The salon that needs the attention is invariably the salon I’m not at,” Nick laughs. But the management team has coped by creating over-arching systems and policies for the company, and then empowering location managers to run their salons according to each location’s personality. “Since everyone on our staff is home grown and home bred,” Nick notes, “they know our culture, so it works.”

They Get Creative with Promotions. New clients are the oxygen that keeps any salon alive, so Salon-Capri focuses resources on clever promotions to attract first-timers. One of the most successful has been the Power Hour, which offers streamlined styling, treatment and color services during the lunch hour. “There’s always a midday lull in the salon, and we are surrounded by businesses,” Nick says. “So it’s a great way to engage businesspeople in the area. They go back to work and their co-workers wonder why they look so good!”

Another desirable demographic for salons are the 20-something Instagrammers that are driving all sorts of businesses today. Salon-Capri’s “Selfie Saturdays” speak to these clients. After a hair service, a client heads to the selfie station, snaps a photo, posts it to their Instagram page and tags the salon. Each month, the salon culls through the tags and selects a winner for a free service. “It helps with engagement,” says Nick, “and it’s a real differentiator for our business.”

They Partner with a Company That Brings Them the World. Nick reveals that the ideas for the Power Hour came from a L’Oréal Professionnel Business Forum they attended last year in Spain. “We brought it back to Boston—no one was doing it,” he says. “That’s why we’ve been loyal L’Oréal customers for 35 years. They enable us to brainstorm and share with fellow salon owners around the world. They bring us into their world. We’re a small business, but they expose us to things in New York, Paris, Milan. Our stylists see parts of the industry—fashion, celebrity—that attracted them to this business in the first place. Plus, they keep developing and innovating. There is always something new for us and our clients.”

A Snapshot of Salon-Capri:

Salon and Academy: Salon-Capri
Owners: Nicholas, Laura and Amy Penna
Locations: Downtown Boston, Newton and Dedham, MA
Established: Nick and Laura’s parents Gina and Nicholas opened the first salon in 1967
Square Feet: 2,000, 2,500 and 3,400
Number of employees: 95
Number of Stations: 14, 16 and 20
Number of Treatment Rooms: 2 each in Dedham and Newton
Retail Lines: Kerastase, Shu Uemura, L’Oréal Professionnel
Color Line: L’Oréal Professionnel
Shampoo, Cut and Style: $75
Single Process Color: $75
Salon Software: SalonTarget
Best-Selling Product: Kerastase Fiber Architect
Newest Product: Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Taming Overnight Serum

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