ALL IN THE FAMILY: Melissa hash has been around salons for as long she can remember. Her father, Bob Zupko, has always owned salons, and her two sisters also entered the beauty industry as stylists. After helping out in her father’s salons for most of her young life, she decided to go to school for computer programming. While working as a computer programmer for the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, she continued to help her father by doing data entry and payroll for the salon.

In 1998 she decided she wanted to go back and work for the family business full time. She approached her father, who was in the process of expanding his Robert Andrew Salon & Spa. He realized that the salon was evolving and he was going to need help managing and growing the business. It was the perfect opportunity for Hash to be involved in her family’s business while growing her own career.

While at Robert Andrew, Hash was instrumental in three major expansions. The final one, a relocation to 22,000-sq-ft. facility in 2002, left previous 7,000-sq-ft. salon empty with three years left on the lease. Hash was ready for a change, so she decided to open her own salon.

Salon: Rush! Express Salon & Spa Bar

Location: Gambrills, M.d.

Owner: Melissa J. Hash

Square footage: 7,000

Years of ownership: one-and-a-half years

Employees/Nail Techs: 9/2

Specialties: Mani/Pedi combo, acrylics, Mystic Spray tanning, oxygen bar

Other services: hair, waxing, massage and body treatments, airbrushed tattoos, medispa services

GO YOUR OWN WAY: Hash quickly came up with her idea of Rush! Express Salon & Spa bar. And while it was initially aimed at the “younger generation,” she soon realized there was a need for a moderately priced salon offering quality services in a fun upbeat environment. So she changed the concept and geared the salon not only towards teens, but also toward the “young at heart.”

“We really wanted to create a fun, laid-back atmosphere were people felt comfortable and that appeals to a variety of people,” she says Hash. “Our clients are mostly between the ages of 20-40 and are into funkier trends and products, as opposed to the more luxurious and reserved atmosphere of Robert Andrew.” In addition, Hash hasn’t left her original target demographic out of the loop. The salon does see a large number of teen clients as well - many of whom come in groups for the Dreamgirl, Young Diva and Glam parties.

Rush! Offers the latest trends in hair, nails, makeup, tanning, and retail, while also offering traditional massage and body treatments, usually with a twist.

“There are a million hair, nail, and tanning salons on every corner,” says Hash. “Our goal is to offer everything for everybody - funky service names, the hottest products and makeup, airbrush tattoos, spray tanning, clothing, accessories, and gifts.”

ONE STOP SHOP: in addition to the large retail area, Rush! has three tanning bed rooms, one stand-alone tanning booth, one Mystical tan room, a manicure area, a pedicure area, a party area, and a hair salon area with waiting room. The separate spa section consists of its own waiting area and seven treatment rooms.

“We’ve had surprised comments from clients on how we offer everything here,” says hash. “The idea was to be a one-stop shop for all service and product needs, and I think we have achieved that.”

The salon does a considerable amount of retail, selling everything from kitschy beauty products to accessories to clothes. Hash is very eager for Rush! to be known as a place where anyone can run in for a last minute gift, outfit to wear, funky makeup application, or a quick tan.

“Our percentage of retail of retail sales is high because we sell a lot of tanning lotions and niche gift items that are not attached to service,” says Hash.

“We offer retail commission based on retail to service sales and periodically we have contests. I had one where for every $50 they sold during an eight-week period they got a gift that included razors, blow dryers, body products, makeup, purses, etc. - most of which were donated by our distributor.

“The salon boasts a more laid-back, casual atmosphere, especially when compared to Robert Andrew and the expectations that go along with working there,” says Hash. “There is a big difference between a salon that employs 150 people and a salon that employs nine. The working environment doesn’t need to be as corporate.”

And with service category names like “Cut It Out” (hair cuts), “High Maintenance” (color), “Get Nailed” (nail services), “toe Jobs” (pedicure services), “Rub Me the Right Way” (massage and body treatments), and “What a Rip Off” (waxing), clients also get the feeling of a fun place that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Manicures (“Perfect 10”) start at $16 and acrylic services (“Extend yourself”) start at $55. Pedicures (“Foot Fetish”) or (“Flavor of the Month”) range from &28 to $45. Salon patrons can get the popular “Mani Pedi” combo deal for $50.

Hash notes, “In terms of price, we are somewhere in the middle - not as expensive as Robert Andrew, but higher than the smaller stand-alone shops.”

In addition to being a full-service salon offering hair, nail, and body services, Rush! Is the only salon in its area to offers Mystic tan spray tanning. The salon also offers clients an oxygen bar with flavored oxygen. (The oxygen bar is mobile unit that can also be rented out for private parties or events.)

Hash notes that nail services make up approximately 25% of the salon’s business, which in the first year has already seen growth. Employees receive a 50% commission as well as retail commission. “Since we are so new, we offer high-level education through our sister salon, Robert Andrew,” says hash. “And all of our staff has the opportunity of attending trade shows and classes. They can receive these perks by showing initiative, meeting sales goals, etc.”

While the salon has only been open for a year and a half, Hash says that the salon has definitely already begun to show growth. “Our biggest challenge is finding employees, service professionals, and support,” says Hash. It’s difficult starting from the ground up, especially since there is a definite interest in what we are offering but times we are turning clients away due to lack of service providers.”

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