It Started Way Back…: When Helga Surratt and Patrick Brennan first opened About Faces in 1970, the salon in Pikesville, Md., was a makeup boutique. They later added skin, massage, and nail services. It was one of the first full-service salons in the area to offer skin care, waxing, and artificial nails in the early 1970s.

In 1978, Surratt (who acts as president) and Brennan (who acts as CEO) moved the spa to Towson, Md., which still operates as the 14,000-sq.-ft. flagship location.

Today, About Faces has four Maryland locations — Towson, Pikesville, Timonium, and Salisbury — and boasts an impressive 6,500 appointments per week.

The location for all four salons — in suburban areas outside of Baltimore — was selected mainly based on convenience. “The Towson location, which is the largest, is in an enclosed mall that is easily accessed from the Baltimore Beltway,” says Brennan.

A Winning Combination: So how have they built such a long-standing, successful business? According to Brennan, running a people-oriented, multiple-service business is just like running operations in his former profession as an executive at the Aerospace Products Division of Swales Aerospace. Combine Brennan’s corporate background with Surratt’s background in modeling, fashion, esthetics, and spa administration, and you have a winning combination.

About Faces operates one of the largest massage therapy and nail care departments in the country with a total of 343 employees at all four locations, including 47 nail techs. They have an active base of 110,000 clients.

The salons offer an interesting mix of service options, including massage therapies, energy therapies, hydrotherapies, spa body treatments, wellness programs, skin care, nail care, waxing and hair removal services, bridal services and hair services. In addition, in response to the growing trend in the medical spa arena, they have added medical spa services offered by a visiting physician, including Thermage, Botox, and state-of-the-art laser treatments. They even have a visiting dentist offering cosmetic teeth whitening services.

The spa-style manicure and pedicure are the most popular nail treatments. Manicures range from $17 to $27 and pedicures range from $37 to $55. Brennan says prices are mid- to high-end and relative to other salons in the area.

The spa owners’ attention to detail includes placing manicure and pedicure stations in the spa away from the hair services in the salon where most nail services are normally located.

The decor is a mix of Mediterranean and European charm, chiefly directed by German-born Surratt. “The decor is comfortable and inviting,” says Surratt. “There are no stark colors or settings. The feel is that of an elegant space with a quiet ambiance.”

Future Looks Bright: Plans for a separate area dedicated solely to medical spa services at the Towson location are already underway. And the other locations will eventually follow. Both Brennan and Surratt believe in staying on the cutting-edge of the spa industry.

In 2004, they placed an order for 26 of European Touch Ltd. II’s new Murano Spa Pedicure chairs to provide comfort and protection for both clients and nail techs alike.

The Timonium location, which has been open for almost three years, is run on a daily basis by Surratt, who oversees the other locations as well. She attributes the 30% increase at this location to the push from the top, emphasizing customer service and education for employees.

“As the business has grown, giving the customer the feeling of a personal touch in a larger location is an ongoing challenge,” says Surratt. “But we have longevity as a company with consistent service and client care.

Likewise, employees see the longevity of the company as an asset. About Faces offers good benefits and a broad educational program.

“The relationship we have with our employees has made many of them stay with us,” adds Surratt. “We offer a stable and flexible work environment.”

About Faces’ management philosophy has combined customer service and employee appreciation with a well-grounded business plan.

Brennan believes that the beauty business offers tremendous potential for growth and success. So why stop with four? Brennan and Surratt are already planning expansion into downtown Baltimore for 2006. And if you can gauge anything from their previous dealings, the newest About Faces will be just as successful as the rest.

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