Deanna Bozic, Jessica Lucas, Nancy Merrow and nine other beauty specialists offer services at the same Center Street salon, but each woman solely answers to herself.
At Salon Lofts, a newly opened business in the Center Street School building, the stylists operate separate, one-person enterprises. By making the switch to Salon Lofts, the longtime stylists received independence fused with the marketing potential of a nationwide corporation seemingly on the rise.
"It's amazing because you can buy the products that you feel work for your clients the best," said Merrow, a nail stylist who previously worked with Bozic at another area salon.
Each stylist's loft is an intimate space with chairs, sinks, mirrors and more. Lucas said that one-on-one setup has made it easier to build trust and friendships with clients who are no longer receiving appointments in a large open space.
Salon Lofts has facilities in Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. Its expansion into Northeast Ohio began late last year with the Mentor site and one in Woodmere. The company will soon open locations in Shaker Heights, Beachwood and Bath Township.
So far, the Mentor location has filled 12 of the 22 available lofts.
Though the hair, nail and skin specialists are operating their own businesses, the rent they pay to Salon Lofts includes individual profiles and client scheduling through the company's website.
The women say flexibility and autonomy are among the best aspects of Salon Lofts. None have taken advantage of doing hair at odd hours, but some have taken Sunday appointments, while others take breaks to pick up their kids, for example.
Greater Cleveland Market Manager Zoe Johnson has no issue with that or any say-so with their individual businesses, as long as the rent is on time.
"We have nothing to do with their sales whatsoever," she said. "We are simply here to assist them. If they want to do an open house or something, I'm kind of the mom-manager, but I don't get to tell them what to do.
"I have gals working three days a week, and I have gals pounding away, six days a week."
Property owner Rick Osborne Jr. has been trying to fill the school building for years. Back in October 2011, when plans for Salon Lofts were first approved, he displayed optimism that the second-floor set of lofts would help attract more tenants. Now that it's open, Mentor Economic Development Director Ron Traub is pleased with the outcome.
"They've done an incredible transformation inside and created a very unique workspace," he said. "It's gone from a building that was struggling, looking for a purpose for several years.
"It's now found that purpose."