Contributing writer Michelle Pratt visits Bijou in Skaneateles, N.Y.
Skaneateles, N.Y. — Michelle Pratt, Contributing Writer — When salon owner Kim Baker decided to open her own salon in April 2007, she found a tiny 650-square-foot cubby in the back of a popular boutique, which meant her front entrance faced a parking lot and her back wall separated her from the activities of a main shopping hub. She knew she needed to make a quick and lasting impression on customers if she was going to stay in business. So Baker decided to capitalize on her small-sized salon, naming her space Bijou, a French word for a small, exquisite gem or trinket.
Things went so well for Baker that by April 2009, she was ready to expand into the adjoining storefront when the boutique went out of business, doubling the area of her salon. The move allowed her to increase her retail and waiting area and add two more stylist chairs and a nail bar. She also converted her old pedicure room into a massage and facial room, upgraded her pedicure chairs, and moved them closer to the front of the salon.
When I visited Skaneateles, I couldn’t resist walking into her chocolate and blue oasis. It just feels happy. Baker’s artist friend, Shelly Strang, helped her choose the colors and design, and the final package is enough to make girls of all ages feel like they’ve walked into a party.
I didn’t have an appointment and thought the chances of getting one on a busy Saturday were pretty slim, but Baker’s staff found a way to work me in for a pedicure. The location of the pedicure thrones is unique in that only a thin curtain separates clients from the waiting area and the main entrance of the salon. However, by using thin material with a shadowy pattern and some clever backlighting, pedicure customers are able to see into the waiting area, but they cannot be seen by waiting customers. This provides a bright, airy spot, and still allows for privacy.
My pedicure took me on an Aveda “sensory journey,” which means I got to personalize my pedicure using chakra cards and sniffing various essential oils. I learned that since expanding, retail sales have quadrupled and the salon welcomes nearly 80 new clients a month.
It’s not just great customer service, a beautiful salon, and an accommodating staff that makes Bijou successful. Baker does a lot to promote her salon, participating in community networking events and posting blog entries filled with pictures and service descriptions. But Baker won’t take all the credit. “Skaneateles has a strong, community-centered culture,” says Baker. “I don’t know if I would have been as successful in another area.”
I’m going to guess she would be. It’s easy to see why people return after they visit Bijou. “We’re a gem of a little salon,” says Baker. “We want to make people shine on the inside and sparkle on the outside.”