With an eye on expansion, the owners of Studio 417 Salon are looking to the future with a planned fall relocation from Farmers Park LLC.
By early October, owners Paul and Hannah Catlett expect to move to The Wooten Co.’s Aundria Plaza at 4303 S. National Ave., its third home since opening in 2000. The salon briefly operated two Springfield shops – downtown and at Farmers Park – before moving all of its operations in 2014 to the south-side development from 444 W. McDaniel St. Now, demand is dictating a second relocation.
“We don’t have enough space to continue to grow as we’d like to,” Hannah says, noting the owners are fulfilling their lease terms at Farmers Park. “We’re always looking in the future for our business. If you wait until the last minute to do something, then you’re unprepared.”
The Catletts employ 33 in the salon, including support staff, and Hannah says plans to hire up to 10 more are in the works with the new location.
In moving to Aundria Plaza, Studio 417 initially will take on 4,500 square feet – about the same amount of space at Farmers Park – but the owners intend to expand by 2,500 square feet within a year.
Hannah says the couple took advice from friends – the Jalili family of restaurateurs – and decided on the site of a pre-existing, now closed salon, Ashley Lauren Salon & Spa, to limit expenses.
“We’re able to spend our money on beautiful cosmetic things to enhance our client experience,” Hannah says, declining to disclose the couple’s planned investment.
Key to Studio 417’s vision is training opportunities for its staff.
A culture of education improves retention, Hannah says, and also keeps stylists on top of trends.
“It’s way better to hire a really good quality person and teach them to be good at hair than to hire someone who’s really good at hair but doesn’t have the best work ethic,” she says.
In many cases, Paul provides that training. He is a graduate of Santa Monica, California-based Vidal Sassoon Academy, which Hannah calls the “Harvard of hair school.” Paul also served as personal assistant to Kenneth George, who’s considered a top stylist in Los Angeles. Hannah says George encouraged Paul to step out on his own.
“He’s a visionary,” Hannah says of her husband. “He always wants to push the boundaries, not to create chaos, but to provide more for our industry and the young people we employ.”
At Aundria Plaza, Hannah says Studio 417 plans to launch advanced technique classes to help stylists build their portfolios.
Paul says the half-day to weeklong classes are designed for licensed hairdressers. Conversely, companies like Paul Mitchell Schools, he says, are more for beginners.
“The school systems here are merely equipped to get them past the state board,” he says. “A lot of times, people were never trained right from the beginning. They can even come in and cover basics 101 and really learn the true chemistry behind hair color.”
A byproduct, Hannah says, is those workers won’t have to leave Springfield for advanced education, meaning they’re more likely to stay in the local workforce. Paul says advanced classes are more common on the coasts.
“We don’t want to lose people to bigger cities because those opportunities aren’t offered here,” Hannah says.
Lessons in longevity
Paul started the salon in 2000 after returning from L.A., where he first worked as a model before training in cosmetology.
While Paul was running Studio 417, he became enamored with a customer. That client, Hannah, later became his wife.
Hannah notes Thad Forrester , Paul’s co-owner in a separate venture, Hudson Hawk Barber & Shop, also was a customer before a business partner.
“Paul has had good success working out of the chair,” she says with a laugh.
When the Catletts married in 2005, Hannah worked at Drury University, and four years later, after having their first child, she decided to join the salon.
Now, Paul mentors Studio 417’s staff, along with the occasional client, and Hannah runs the business side.
“I had never run a business and had no experience doing it. Our sales have increased year after year after year, which has been a huge blessing,” Hannah says.
The couple declined to disclose revenues, though Paul says Studio 417’s sales increased by 14 percent in 2017.
“It’s just passion driven – just waking up every day trying to move the ball down the field in the right direction,” Paul says.
Hannah says she and Paul are hands-on in the business, which establishes a family-owned atmosphere and familiarity among customers.
“We have good vibes, and I think clients sense that,” she says.
Kim Prater, a retired physician, has been Paul’s client since the early days. The former radiologist at CoxHealth visits Studio 417 every five weeks for cuts and coloring.
“I think he’s brilliant with color,” she says of Paul. “As I get older, that becomes more and more important.”
Costs range from $40-$75 for cuts and $75-$200 for coloring.
Studio 417 plans to add beauty and body treatments, such as laser hair removal and body sculpting. The Catletts also aren’t ruling out the possibility of additional shops.
“As our team grows and we spotlight people that want more out of their career and want more leadership, that’s definitely something we’re open to in the future – partnering with some of our employees,” Hannah says.
Where megaretailers abound and more development is coming
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