When Marina Andre took ownership of a salon on Ventura Boulevard in Encino where she had been an employee for four years, she knew precisely what she wanted to do besides rename it; she wanted to transform it.
“The other owners concentrated more on retail and they had a lot of different stuff - clothes, shoes, jewelry, pajamas, skin and hair care products,” Andre said. “The shelves were full and they had baskets on the floor filled with more stuff.”
The colors were also wrong, she said, blue walls to match bluish flooring with white wooden shelves. “The place looked cold,” she said.
So, Andre dramatically reduced the number of retail items, redecorated to create a warm peach-colored interior and emphasized service: hair and facials.
“Because there was so much stuff here, some people didn’t even know we offered services,” she said. “But now they’re asking for services.”
Which is exactly the direction Andre and her investment partners want Marina Andre Salon and Spa to take. Since retail is still sluggish in the lingering recession, Andre believes offering services provides a healthier business base.
To help move the salon in this direction, she brought in skin care specialist Ana Merida who gives facials with products containing natural ingredients. Merida also uses specialty products based on Ayurveda healing practices from India that use plant-based medicines and treatments instead of artificial substances and chemicals.
“You can see the difference on their face,” Merida said. “Results count. The more natural things you put on your body and the less chemicals your skin absorbs, the better it is for you.”
Andre follows the same principles with the products she uses on her clients’ hair and with the products she sells, many of which are free of sulfates, ammonia and parabens, synthetic preservatives in beauty products that can cause allergic reactions.
She knows firsthand how harsh typical beauty products can be. As a young girl growing up in the Ukraine, she always wanted to work in the beauty industry. She would braid her girl friends’ hair and dream of doing more, but her parents kept a tight rein and wouldn’t allow her to experiment with different hair colors or permanents.
So, when she finished her high school education and was out on her own, she decided to try a perm at a local salon. But the procedure went awry and she ended up with frizzy copper-colored hair.
“I was crying,” she recalled. “And I thought there has to be some way to fix this.”
She researched the problem, found a solution and then realized that she needed to enroll in a beauty school to learn the basics. She studied at the top beauty institute in the Ukraine and after graduation started her own business in Russia.
She moved to Los Angeles in 1996 after many of her family members came here and she worked at a number of salons, including the location that she soon came to own and transform.
“For me, the number one priority in business is services, good services,” she said. “I want my clients to be happy and to walk out happy.”
Marina Andre Salon, 17338 Ventura Blvd. Encino, CA 91316