SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: Honey Child Salon & Spa is located right in the heart of downtown Chicago. But step inside the salon and you’ll swear you were relaxing in someone’s home. Bambi Montgomery, owner of the salon, says this feeling is no accident, but rather her inspiration for everything related to the salon.
Montgomery explains the name “honey child” is a Southern term of endearment her grandmother used when talking to everyone. “It symbolizes the love and care that went into creating this space,” Montgomery says. “All the furnishings in the salon were custom-made to look like someone’s home.”
The salon encompasses a little over 3,600 square feet in a three-story building. Although the exterior of the building is reminiscent of the art deco style often found in Miami, Montgomery designed the inside to be warm and inviting for clients. When it came to decorating her creation, Montgomery chose honey-like colors and fabrics to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. “We used white oak and birch woods stained a warm chocolate color.”
Along with a full spa, Honey Child also boasts three treatment rooms, a color department, a styling floor, and a shower room. Montgomery has four nail stations and four pedicure stations, all of which are on the top floor.
THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: To complement the honey-inspired decor, Montgomery decided to include some honey products in the services she offers. After doing some research on the properties of honey, she discovered it is a natural moisturizer and has anti-aging properties as well, so she had some products specially designed for the salon. With options like the brown sugar duo (an exfoliating treatment for the entire body using brown sugar) and honey quench hair mask (a hair mask made with honey and shea butter), guests have a plethora of options using the “sticky stuff.”
Montgomery says all her treatments are fabulous, but singles out two as being the most popular services for hands and feet. Honey, Be Manicured is 45 minutes of pure pleasure, according to Montgomery. “It’s done with honeysuckle exfoliants that were made just for us, and a honey cream balm afterwards,” she says. “Then we have beeswax sheets that are immersed in paraffin to cover the hands.” Montgomery says lighting candles sets the mood for the treatment, which is also available for pedicures.
Honey Child’s second most popular treatment is the Brown Sugar Manicure, which includes the same elements as a signature treatment, but uses other ingredients. “It was created for us using brown sugar, coconut, and almond oil as an exfoliant to soothe the skin, then finished with cocoa butter balm,” she says. Clients leave smelling like chocolate from the ingredients, but Montgomery satisfies then: cravings with a chocolate kiss — the finale of the treatment.
IN THE BEGINNING: Montgomery has been involved in the beauty industry for more than a dozen years. She began in high school by assisting in a salon over summer break and knew she had found her passion from that introduction into the business. “I’ve worked and apprenticed in a number of different places,” she says.
After visiting the salons in New York, Montgomery wanted to raise the bar for what customers could expect in hair and body care in Chicago. During a fateful walk in the busy Riverwest area of Chicago, she stumbled upon the perfect spot. “I was just walking down the street and spotted such a pretty building that I took the number down,” she recalls.
From there, everything fell into place. Almost two years later, Honey Child Salon & Spa still reflects Montgomery’s original intentions. “I decided that if I wanted the work environment that I desired, I would have to create it,” she says.
THE PERFECT PLACE TO WORK:
Creating that ideal work environment has been a top priority for Montgomery since the salon’s inception. Coupling her background in beauty with an eclectic work history, Montgomery realized the importance of hiring and retaining happy and satisfied employees. “My goal was to create a place that was appealing to the staff, as well as clients, because clients are a lot smarter than we like to think they are,” she says. “If your staff isn’t happy, your clients know.”
Montgomery says that one of the most difficult things about running the salon is finding and training competent people who want to share in the vision of her salon, and who are willing to grow with the new venture. “Because we’re a new salon, we can’t hire a spa director for $60,000 a year,” she says. “We have to find people who are willing to come on board and grow as we grow.” She has been fortunate, she adds, in finding easy-to-manage, professional staff members who can bring an already strong client base with them.
Honey Child Salon & Spa is divided into departments by the different services available, and each department has its own manager. Montgomery oversees the entire salon, and relies on her department heads to incorporate new products and services, implement training, and ensure things run smoothly. “If there’s a new treatment I’ve created 01 a department head has created, they are responsible for training to make sure that part of the salon is running smoothly and services are being done properly to ensure consistency.”
Montgomery relies on her staff to help in the hiring process as well. Obtaining new employees is an involved task, but one Montgomery stresses is essential to maintaining the professional image of her salon. Potential employees must first showcase their skills on current employees and then have an interview with different staff members. “I think when everyone helps in the hiring process there’s a certain camaraderie and a [feeling of] taking people under your wing,” she explains.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE:
Honey Child services a wide range of ethnicities. “Because I’ve hired such a variety of people, you can see just about anybody in here; it’s a nice melting pot,” Montgomery boasts. The salon has a nice, healthy mix — something Montgomery says doesn’t happen very often. “You walk into some places and you don’t see any techs or stylists who look like you or have hair like you, so you automatically assume they can’t service you. When you come here, you see all kinds of people and you know that you can be serviced,” she says.
Montgomery adds that around 10% of her clients are men and the number is growing. She’s responding to the explosive growth of male clientele by adding treatments specially designed for them, particularly a hot oil soak and “Rocked at Sea,” which uses hot stones and reflexology for tired feet.
Staying on top of what’s going on is easy if you just pay attention, she says. “I really watch people on the street and celebrities. Chicago is up and coming, so people on the street will let you know what’s going on.”