As if Cabo doesn’t already sell itself, now there’s one more reason to head there for your next vacation — HIVE Salon + Spa. Located on the grounds of the One & Only Palmilla hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico, HIVE has locals and tourists alike swarming to this hot spot.
For someone who didn’t originally intend to be a salon owner, Bambi Montgomery sure is doing a good job of mastering that role. With the success of her extremely popular Honey Child Salon & Spa in Chicago and her latest venture, HIVE Salon & Spa in Los Cabos, Mexico, it’s as though she’s been planning this her whole life.
Weaving the Honeycomb: Having worked in many areas of the beauty industry, Montgomery never planned to operate her own salon. Instead, her desire was to partner with one of the owners she worked for. Unfortunately, after 15 years as a hairdresser, that didn’t happen. “I worked really hard for several places to find that it didn’t matter how hard I worked, I would never make partner. The beauty business did not operate like a law firm,” she says.
Hoping to give others the opportunity she was never offered, in 2000 Montgomery opened her first salon, Honey Child Salon & Spa in Chicago. She explains, “My desire is for my core group to become partners in opening other salons in both the U.S. and abroad.”
The opportunity for HIVE was presented to Montgomery while she was on vacation in Cabo. “I fell in love with the warmth of the people, the beauty of the land, the richness of the culture, and of course being from Chicago, the weather,” she recalls. Realizing there was a chance to do something unique, Montgomery started making plans on her flight back home to Chicago.
Continuing with the “honey” theme, in May 2006 Montgomery opened HIVE, an extension of Honey Child. This latest salon has created the possibility for her Chicago spa director, Santha Dulaney, to purchase shares in the new venture and learn the role of an owner. Dulaney, who has worked with Montgomery for five years, is honored that Montgomery has made her a partner in the business. “I’m learning a lot about being an owner and all the hats you wear, but I’m blessed to have a teacher like Bambi,” she says. Dulaney’s clients are mostly in Chicago, but she visits HIVE every month.
Montgomery tries to give her employees all the tools she has available so they can succeed. “That is what moves me,” she says, “to create unique opportunities for myself and others to enhance the quality of life.”
Some Sharp Stings: Roughly a year was spent preparing for HIVE’s opening. As you might expect, there were quite a few obstacles along the way. “I don’t think I ever prayed as much as I did during this time,” says Montgomery.
Facing the challenge of opening a second location in an unknown territory was tough for Montgomery. Finding a place to live and figuring out how to get equipment and products from the U.S. weren’t so simple either. On top of that, she didn’t speak Spanish.
“Being a woman in a predominantly male-dominated country, it was difficult to get men to take me seriously, and then, to be unable to effectively communicate or negotiate in their language was a challenge,” she says. In the beginning, she hired an interpreter and a bilingual attorney to help translate contracts and attend meetings with her. Then she began taking Spanish classes twice a week. “My Spanish, although not perfect, is good,” she says. “The men who I used to negotiate with through my attorney or interpreter have a lot more respect for me now.”
Buzz-Worthy Beauty: Location was not something Montgomery had to think twice about. She had no doubt that the world-renown luxury resort community of Palmilla would be the best place for her new business. Positioned in the vicinity of the famous One & Only Palmilla hotel frequented by celebrities and socialites, HIVE is surrounded by tremendous wealth — wealth of culture, community, and family, as Montgomery puts it.
The 3,000-square-foot, two-story salon and spa is located in the only area within the Palmilla properties open to the general public, Las Tiendas de Palmilla. The shopping plaza includes boutique clothing stores, world-class restaurants, and fine art galleries. In keeping with the honey theme, Montgomery wanted guests to experience the feeling that HIVE truly is the place where honey is made. “When I think of HIVE, I think of a place that is warm, rich, and exciting. These feelings give way to the decor. It is extremely warm and sexy,” she says. With honey-colored floors, curvy walls and ceilings, rich brown fabrics, and frosted spa doors, Montgomery is extremely proud of its “swanky” appeal.
Constructing the Colony: Plenty of job applicants lined up once they heard HIVE was opening. However, because Mexican salon professionals are not required to have a license or training in order to work, finding qualified candidates proved to be somewhat of a challenge. And although there were a number of transient American salon and spa professionals living in Mexico, they didn’t suit Montgomery’s desire for longevity.
While most owners would probably consider this an inconvenience, Montgomery viewed this as a unique opportunity. “Being an educator, I saw this as a chance to share my knowledge with people who have a desire to be a part of this field, but don’t have the resources or facilities to achieve their desire,” she says.
Since there were no classes or trade shows available for these unlicensed and untrained professionals, Montgomery’s dedicated Chicago staff helped train the new employees. Several managers from Honey Child spent six months in Cabo extensively training HIVE staff, and several continue to visit on a monthly basis to ensure quality of service and introduce new techniques and ideas.
In addition to service training, Montgomery also pays for employees to attend weekly English lessons. Because most clients do not speak Spanish, and the HIVE staff speaks just enough English to communicate during treatments, being able to have conversations would be an added bonus for both clients and employees.
Employees are paid a salary and commission. In compliance with the Mexican government’s requirement to give employees benefits after one year, HIVE employees are offered profit sharing, six-day vacations, and health benefits. Employees are also encouraged to sell boutique and salon items, something that doesn’t require a great deal of effort. Montgomery explains quality products aren’t available outside HIVE, so retail sells itself.
Products are imported from the U.S., and Montgomery’s line “by Honey Child” is also available at HIVE.
The Bee’s Knees: Despite competition with hotel spas in the area, HIVE’s mission helps set it apart from the rest: Provide one of the world’s most luxurious resort destinations with an unrivaled salon and spa designed to meet the discerning needs of residents and visitors alike. To achieve this, Montgomery has placed personalized service and attention as the number-one priority of every HIVE staff member. Prices are comparable with those of its competitors, but the focus on ensuring quality services and the attention to detail keeps customers coming back.
HIVE’s clientele mainly consists of Americans and Canadians who live in Cabo year-round. Sophisticated and well traveled, they’ve visited the best spas and salons worldwide and are no strangers to superior quality and service. With five treatment areas, HIVE offers a variety of services to choose from. While 35% of business is focused on nails, other treatments include hair services, massages, body treatments, facials, waxing, lash extensions, and makeup. Specialty services unique to the spa are the Bamboo Massage, the Barefoot in Lemongrass body treatment, and the Mojito Sugar Cane manicure and pedicure.
The most popular nail treatment is the Brown Sugar Pedicure with Bambi French polish (a signature shade from her line). The brown sugar treatments are also a personal favorite of Montgomery’s, as are the honey treatments. Manicures and pedicures are available for both women and men, ranging from $25 to $65. For men, the most popular services are pedicures and golfer treatments. “Our Golfer’s Cold Therapy treatment is designed to target the major muscle areas used in golf with a variety of massage techniques,” explains Montgomery.
Royal Treatment From the Queen Bee: Still an active team member, Montgomery continues to put in her share of hours behind the chair, both at HIVE and at Honey Child in Chicago. She works six-hour days, five days a week at HIVE, and four days a month in Chicago. But Montgomery’s commitment to providing personalized service and attention doesn’t stop with her clients.
“Because I was a hairdresser for 15 years prior to becoming an owner, I simply practice treating my employees the way I want to be treated,” she says. “I support my team in their personal and professional endeavors. I adore my staff and realize without them, I wouldn’t have a business. I am only as successful as my team.” As humble as she is sweet, Montgomery has only one word to describe her experience at HIVE this past year — blessed.