Three generations, no split ends

Shared from the 2017-08-20 The Providence Journal eEdition


Three generations, no split ends

William Oates started Christiaan Salon 44 years ago; now his daughter and granddaughter drive its growth

The three generations behind Christiaan Salon and Day Spa: business founder William Oates, his daughter Sheri Petrarca, and her daughter Tasha Regine.

A view of Christiaan Salon and Day Spa after a recent interior renovation.3 generations Christiaan Salon and Day Spa, Providence, RI

Snowed in at her father’s salon during the Blizzard of ‘78, Sheri Petrarca found her calling.

William Oates, Petrarca’s father, opened Christiaan Salon and Day Spa in 1973 on Angell Street in Providence.

Petrarca, after falling in love with the salon atmosphere during her snowbound stint as a receptionist, went to hairdressing school before officially joining the family business in 1987. In 1994, she became a partner.

That same year, Christiaan Salon made the move from their rented space on Angell Street to a building of their own at 4 Benefit St.

In addition to Oates, who, as Petrarca’s “adviser” these days, stops by the salon twice a week, Petrarca’s daughter Tasha Regine also works at the salon as an aesthetician and the business’ bookkeeper. Petrarca is the salon’s president and managing partner, and still occasionally steps behind the chair to style hair.

The business employs 12 others, including another aesthetician, a nail technician, eight stylists and two receptionists.3 generations Christiaan Salon and Day Spa, Providence, RI

In an interview, Petrarca, of East Greenwich, discussed her experience as a small-business owner in Rhode Island. Here are excerpts:

How is your business different from similar businesses around you?

We focus most of our energy on growing staff members into successful stylists and technicians. Their personal goals become our personal goals. They don’t work for me, they work alongside me, and I encourage team members to pursue individual passions. For example, if a staff member is passionate about hair color I find ways to help send them to the Goldwell Academy in New York or California to become a master colorist. We do the same for staff that might want to specialize in haircutting or makeup.

We also very carefully choose the products we use on clients and that we sell in the salon. We carry product lines that we consider to be high quality and very effective; we want the client experience to continue to be a success days and weeks after their salon visit.

How has the business evolved?

Last month we completed a cosmetic renovation. We wanted to give the salon a fresh look that represents our current style and clients seem to really like it so far. We also have become much more business-minded. Hairstyling attracts creative people and having a business focus is something I have had to really strive to achieve. I’ve really learned a lot about managing a small business. When we were at our location on Angell Street, we just did hair, and now we focus on giving our clientele an experience. We offer waxing, skin care, and nails. There’s a lot of competition out there and you really have to stay up to date on the trends and what’s new in education.

How much revenue is the business making?

Last year our services were around 10 percent greater than the year before. That trend continues this year. The staff continues to amaze me with how hard they work; they bring in weekly sales I never thought imaginable in a salon. Not only are our sales increasing yearly, but our team members are also earning more each year, which is just as important to me.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?

Rhode Island has a high population of hair salons. It has, at times, been challenging to keep up with competitors and stay relevant. Many salons offer deep discounts on services through online merchants, but that’s something we’ve stayed away from. Our staff is very talented and we don’t want to discount their services because, at the end of the day, that takes money out of their pockets. Instead, we offer savings for first-time services and we have a great referral program that encourages clients to send in friends and family.

What do you need to grow and succeed in light of challenges?

We consider the staff to be a family, so we select new team members very carefully. We’ve developed a very intense training program that produces strong stylists. We also make an effort to educate our stylists with group classes taught quarterly by a guest stylist. We strive to be up-to-date on all trends and services and to treat our clients as a part of the Christiaan family. We’re dedicated to making the customer happy and want them to feel at home when they come to our salon. It’s important to find team members who share that focus.

What are your goals?

I want to continue to grow our staff into successful stylists. Watching them become successful and able to achieve their goals financially is my motivation. I have team members that have been part of our Christiaan family for over 20 years, and some for just a year. Being able to give them attention and help them grow at whatever stage of their career they are in is something that’s benefited us in a major way. Their personal growth and happiness grows the business as a whole.

We’ve talked about growing more by adding more staff, opening an additional day, and providing more services. At some point, I’d love to pass on the knowledge I have acquired over the years to other salon and spa owners by offering a consulting service. In terms of opening another salon, that’s not my plan at this point. I’m still learning and I want to focus on what I have now.

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