When she opened Republic Salon on Labor Day 2007, Roberta Carrier recalls feeling confident the business would thrive. But she also remembers having some reservations due to the nation’s shaky economic climate.
“We opened in the worst economy known to man,” said Carrier. “It was right when the market was crashing. I guess I did go into it thinking we’d be successful, but I was also preparing myself for anything.”
And now Republic Salon – located on the third floor of the old Frigidaire building on the corner of Broad and Jackson streets – is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The salon will commemorate the occasion on Labor Day by offering 10 percent off services and 10 percent off retail products.
And it’s likely the shop’s stylists will be booked all day.
There’s little question Republic Salon has found favor with the Classic City as the business has been honored numerous times by both the Athens Banner-Herald and Flagpole as Athens’ favorite salon. The shop has also been recognized on a national level by a variety of publications.
Carrier says when she began casting about for a home for the high-end salon, she wanted to be in downtown Athens, but worried about the location she selected.
“We knew we wanted to be downtown,” she said. “This was the only spot we looked at. It’s on the third floor over what used to be Tasty World. It was a rock church, and when I walked in there and looked at this space, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can turn this into a hair salon.’ But we did.
“The first year we were open, we were named one of the five best-designed salons in the country by Salon Today magazine, which is the Bible of the salon industry. We were one of the salons of the year for 2008. … The climb to the third floor did not turn out to be a deterrent. Somebody called it our free wellness program.”
When asked to detail her thoughts on why Republic Salon has enjoyed such staying power, Carrier – an Atlanta native who attended the University of Georgia in the late 1960s – is quick to dish out the attributes, starting with her head stylist and creative director, Lyric Bellotte, who has also been a consistent favorite in town, having been named best hair stylist in Athens on numerous occasions.
Carrier pointed out that Bellotte and stylist Shane Davis have been with Republic Salon since the day it opened.
Another aspect of the salon’s success has been superior customer service.
“Here’s the secret: customer service,” she said, adding that Republic Salon has the city’s only color bar and is also licensed to serve wine and beer to its patrons. “My mantra to my employees is that every client that walks through that door needs to be treated as if they were our only client. It’s also due to the talent of my stylists. But customer service … that I owe to my general manager, Patrick Rabon. … Patrick is not a hairstylist and he’s there every day to give customer service.
“We’re not happy unless the client is happy. I grew up with ‘the client is always right’ and unfortunately, a lot of businesses these days don’t think that, but I try to instill that in my front desk. The client is always right.”
And Carrier says the shop’s clientele have been critical in the longevity of the business.
“I attribute a lot of our success to our loyal clients who refer us to their friends,” she said.
Carrier – whose husband Ron is the shop’s marketing consultant – laughed when she was asked if Republic Salon is the kind of gossip Petri dish often depicted in movies and television, especially reality television.
“Most salons are known for their backroom drama,” she said. “We’ve had our share of drama, but we have none now. I don’t like drama. I think what happens is the clients don’t get excellent service when that happens. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to get rid of the drama so the clients get a drama-free experience. … My goal in all of this was to be high-end, but super-friendly, welcoming and comfortable.”
For more information, visit republicsalon.com/cms/ or call (706) 208-5222.