A rash of salon fires reminds salon owners just how much they stand to lose. Knowing the potential fire dangers that exist in your salon and taking steps to curb them, as well as determining what your business is worth and getting good insurance coverage will help prevent a fire in your salon and minimize its effects should the worst come to pass.
Salon owner Bobbie Cooper-Hulbert had it good. Her small, one-woman salon in a 17,000-sq.-ft. Powell, Wy., beauty school was bustling, and she’d just added a $5,000 pedicure room. Having owned five salons in the past 25 years, Cooper-Hulbert was thankful for the freedom her current salon afforded her. The building was owned by a good friend and “I never had a formal lease agreement, I didn’t even pay rent for the first couple of months,” says Cooper-Hulbert.
A seasoned professional, Cooper-Hulbert took personal precautions to guard against fire. “I studied the MSDS for my products and installed a fire alarm,” she says. When a local salon burned down, she reminded herself to get insurance coverage – something she’d always had at her previous salons. But before she’d gotten around to it her entire building went up in flames.
“A furnace pipe in the attic caused a spark and the attic caught fire,” says Cooper-Hulbert. The fire smoldered undetected for hours before finally engulfing the entire building after the beauty school closed for the night. “The building was a total loss. There was $600,000 worth of damage and I had no coverage. I lost $35,000,” she says.
Since the loss of her salon, Cooper-Hulbert has focused her attention on her work as an educator. And despite having lost all of her nail supplies, she’s been able to continue to do nails with the help of colleagues and supply houses that donated supplies and loaned her equipment.
For now Cooper-Hulbert has given up the idea of owning another salon. “I just don’t have the time or energy to think about starting over,” she says.
While always devastating, the damage caused by a salon fire doesn’t have to be permanent. Salon owners who are proactive in their efforts to protect their businesses and have adequate insurance coverage still feel the overwhelming sting of a salon fire, but they also have the tools to fight back.
At press time, Renee Borowy is embroiled in an all-out fight to get her salon back up and running after it was lost to a five-alarm fire this past summer. Borowy, the owner of the full-service salon, The Salon at VIP, in Riverview, Mich., hopes to stage a grand re-opening just four to six months after the embers cooled.
“The salon had been open a year and a half when it burned down,” says Borowy. Everything in the building was new. Borowy had gutted the building and installed new plumbing, sprinklers, electrical, heating and cooling, and exhaust systems, and each new system had passed a thorough inspection. Just prior to the fire Borowy made one last addition — a video surveillance system.
While it did not prevent the fire, the security system saved Borowy and her insurance company time and money because it caught the entire fire on film. “The video allowed the investigators to determine the cause of the fire and rule out arson as a cause,” she says. The culprit: a faulty, overheated battery pack for a hand-held vacuum.
“If there was any question of arson we’d have to wait until the insurance company investigated the fire.” The fire so far has cost her insurance company more than half a million dollars, and as the rebuilding process continues that number is sure to grow.
Just 24 hours after the fire consumed her business, Borowy had set up a temporary location and managed to keep the majority of her employees. “We were able to relocate temporarily and keep our nail, facial, pedicure, and hair services,” she says. A comprehensive insurance plan has played a major role in facilitating the salon’s recovery.
“I recommend that all salon owners invest in business interruption insurance. Some salon owners may not know that it doesn’t necessarily come standard as part of your business insurance policy,” says Borowy. “It is an extra premium, but it has taken care of our business expenses, rent at our temporary location, and it pays for the salary payroll.”
Building insurance and contents insurance have also been major factors in getting the salon back up and running. “Make sure that you check your policy and have adequate contents insurance. I don’t think you can ever have enough. I learned after the fire that I certainly didn’t,” Borowy says.