Hair stylist and salon owner, Stacie Bowie, of Bowie Salon and Spa in Seattle, Washington, has weathered storms both literal (hurricane Andrew) and figurative (the 2008 recession) throughout her decades in the hair business, but nothing could have prepared her for the effects of the current coronavirus pandemic. The Daily reached out the Bowie to find out how she and her business are coping and what her plans are for the future.
First, a little background. How did you become interested in this business in the first place?
At age 12, I was reading Vogue and Elle I would try to figure out how to style the hair I was seeing in the magazines. I knew then that I wanted to have a career in hair.
What made you decide to open your own salon?
In all honesty, I never wanted to open my own salon. As a stylist and educator for Redken, at the time, I enjoyed working with people, but was uncomfortable with the business side. When my husband Scott offered to handle the business side, then I agreed. We both wanted an employee-based salon that valued education and teamwork rooted in hospitality.
I started my career in Miami and traveled to London and Paris for advanced education. I worked for Dave and Johan International in South Africa in 1990. They were and still are my inspirations and mentors. From the beginning of my career, I always made sure to work with the best in the industry, be humble, and be a sponge. I attended Vidal Sassoon in London, L’Oreal School for Color in Paris, Jingles and Mod hair to get the best education I could early in my career. This opened up my eyes to the hair world and opened up opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m pretty sure I could have paid to put myself through Harvard with the money I have spent in the last 31 years on my continuing education.
How are you coping with the current coronavirus crisis? Both personally and as a business?
On personal level, I’m breathing deep and am cautiously optimistic. We have always prepared for a catastrophe, but who could have ever imagined a pandemic?
On a professional level, I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. After Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, the salon I worked at, as well as myself, had no power for three weeks and after that ,clients who didn’t lose their homes slowly trickled back. The WTO in 1999, the violence in Seattle effected business for three weeks. September 11 was horrific and that effected business for a month. The 2008 recession was a game-changer and we changed how we hired and did business. The current coronavirus impact will be felt for months, if not years. We’re making sure our employees are taken care of and reaching out to our clients to stay connected.
I have asked myself why the professional beauty industry does not seem to be represented as well as other industries. The restaurant industry is airing commercials and are able to stay open partially because they feed people. Yes, understood. Makes me wonder why the beauty industry has no one advocating for us. Could you imagine a world without us? What would that look like? We know more about our clients than their therapists and families do. We feed our clients’ spirits.
Has the current crisis changed how you see this industry or your business? Or changed how you see yourself operating your business moving forward?
This is something I have been thinking about a lot on my daily long walks. Yes, we will have to change with the times and we will survive this. We will have to rethink the way we see clients, handle tractions, and how we handle our day-to-day business activity. You may see service providers wearing protective gear like masks, gloves, protective clothing that gets changed between clients. We may see materials change, furniture, equipment, and services in the salon. Salon design will have to change and respect social distancing and that’ll be a challenge with facility costs. We will not go back to what we were doing. The real story as we go through the COVID-19 pandemic will be told later in the year. The fallout will be seen as the businesses that must, go through bankruptcy and emerge or not.
What do you think sets your salon apart?
Our fierce belief in the fact that we are in the hospitality business. Our main focus is the client, and we are here for them. Communication is king and it our responsibility to set clear expectations. We have had a no cell phone policy for our staff for six years now. This was unheard of when we started it, but we know we can only really focus on one thing at a time and the customer comes first. Our phones took our attention away from our customers so they had to be put away.
Our hospitality approach helps us take care of our clients. I am constantly working with general managers, managers, and quality control managers of the best hotels in the world. These hotels deliver the highest guest experience and we can learn from them. We also are big believers in continuously seeking out and bringing in educators to teach us technical skills and inspire us.
We offer a robust benefits program including health insurance, retirement plan, flexible scheduling, product rewards and incentives, coaching, and education to support our staff, as we value our employees greatly.
What is your favorite thing to do in the salon?
As a generalist, I enjoy every aspect of doing hair, from solving a new client’s hair issues to coloring, cutting, and blowdrying and setting up real expectations, building their trust, and growing long-standing relationships.
How are you filling your time these days since you’re not in the salon?
I’m working on new, improved sanitary protocols and ways to protect our staff and clients from any lingering COVID-19 cases silently, unknowingly walking amongst us. Staying positive, long walks every day, Fulfilling online retail orders and gift cards from our clients, applying for PPP, that may likely never come. Weekly Zoom meetings with my staff to lift all of our spirits. Weekly Zoom meeting with my girlfriends, who also own salons and live all over the US. Weekly check-ins with my friends in Italy. Wondering why I’m suddenly hungry all the time? At the salon I’m never hungry! Now it’s “Please step away from the potato chips! Please step away from the Gelato!”
What are you most looking forward to once all this is over?
Truly reconnecting with my team, my clients, my friends and neighbors, and rebuilding and now adding pandemic to the new lists of things to worry about and prepare for.
In the meantime, any at-home haircare dos and don’ts you’d like to share?
Yes, very important advise: Number one, don’t cut or color your own hair! That’s what we beauty professionals are for. Even I have grey roots! I’m all about solidarity! Do give yourself more conditioning treatments and just let your hair air dry. Or try some styling techniques you’ve been trying to master. You’ve got nothing but time now!
Any conditioning treatments in particular that we should try?
I would recommend three conditioning treatments: Kerestase Chronologiste Mask on the days you want to truly pamper your hair, Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Mask for the mere fact that there is nothing compares to the level of hydration it gives you, and Kerestase Blond Absolu Mask for when you feel your blonde is looking a little blah. All three should be in you bathroom.