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© 2020 by Brodie Richards.

  • Brodie Richards

Leaving the Mall Behind

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Like a "fish out of water." That is a pretty clear description of the situation when you take a hair salon that was located in Stone Road Mall since it opened in 1979 and put it in a strip plaza in the East End.

We did not ask to leave the mall; we did not know it was happening. It started with a meeting. The mall wanted to "talk." They were breaking up with us. In fact, they came awfully close to telling us it was "them and not us." They had a new big retailer coming to the mall (H&M) and they needed our space.

They gave us 6 months to leave. It was mid-August.

What do you do when you have 6 months to move?

We took the dog for a walk. There was a plaza not far from our house that had an empty unit. It had been empty for over a year. It was an old Rogers video store. The windows were covered with brown paper. but there were a few openings where the tape had given way. So there we were, dog on a leash, 11pm at night, peaking through the small slits in the window, trying to see the space and asking ourselves if we were crazy for even considering such a big space. It was a great location - just so big.

It was huge. Too big for us, but maybe we could take half of it. Half would be perfect. So we contacted the landlord.

We could not have half.

It had to be all or nothing. Others had already asked for half. Everyone wanted half. Can we take 3500 square feet? That is three times the size of the salon we had in mall. With a finished basement. Do we need a basement?

As we pondered, we looked around the city. There was a spot Downtown. Do we really want to go downtown. The parking? Are we a "downtown" salon, we asked ourselves. We looked South. An empty Blockbuster might come free soon. They hadn't decided yet what to do with it. Maybe it would be broken into smaller units. (It become a Dollarama years later).

Decisions Decisions

We didn't have time to wait for the perfect location. We needed the location to start the design work. So we decided; the big Rogers video store was it - 3500 square feet - we will figure it out. They were happy someone finally said yes to taking it all. We started lease negotiations early September and it was finalized by early October. By the time it was all said and done we had the keys November 1. We had 3.5 months to design, build, and move.

Here’s how you design a salon in one week:

  1. Buy masking tape

  2. Use masking tape to outline new walls, stations, reception

  3. Draw design on paper

  4. Give design to architect (because City says you have to)

  5. Wait

Everything was rushed. We still had a salon to run during the day, in a mall, so it was open 7 days a week. After the salon closed at 9pm we would head to the new space and walk around testing different designs. It was one big open space. We debated where to put color bar - spa rooms - what about stations. We used masking tape to help visualize the design.

We did it in a week. We got the keys November 1 and had our crude paper drawing to the architects by November 7. Doing it fast meant making lots of mistakes. It wasn't perfect, but it was our salon. Eventually we came to hate some of the decisions, but then, you start to make the quirks into a home. What was once an excessively large spa room became the perfect staff room.

Goodbye Mall

For the first few years, we talked a lot about the mall. Clients would had ask if we liked our new location. They asked about foot traffic - everyone wanted to know how it was going. At this time, the majority clients had been clients at the mall. So we told old mall stories and got used to our new space - meeting new friends from the neighborhood.

It didn't happen all at once - but eventually we stopped talking about the mall. First, it was the stylists. By our fourth year in the new location, the only remaining staff member from the mall was us - the owners. Not long after we noticed clients stopped asking and talking about the mall.

Eramosa was no longer the "new" location. It was home. It was home for them as much as us. It will be 10 years soon. To think it all started with a breakup and then a dog walk.