Being voted “The Best of Boston” by Boston magazine two years straight is very satisfying to Joyce Hampers. A former candidate for state office and campaign manager for George Bush, Hampers knows well what goes into winning the hearts (and votes) of a community. Also, as a harried businesswoman herself, she can appreciate the need for the kind of day spa services and ambiance provided at her Giuliano Salon and Day Spa on the famous Newbury Street in Boston.

Giuliano is not just a beauty salon; it’s a place of beauty itself, designed to the last detail to rejuvenate the spirit and senses even as its staff makes over the external ravages of life in downtown Boston. In this Mecca of tony designer boutiques and specialty shops, Giuliano reigns supreme over the more than 85 salons (at salon manager Catherine Boyd’s last count) packed into nine city block lengths of Newbury Street.

When Hampers and her original partner scouted sites for their salon, they had their hearts set on Newbury Street, but assumed that they could not afford the high rents. But through a series of connections (when you’re in politics, you’re connected), they found a broker who located a little-known space that, although it was located on the second floor of an office building and was dark and dreary, had potential. And it was 5,000 square feet very reasonably priced.

Hampers’ original plans included hair and nail services, but she listened to Cynthia Vocell, a salon designer who helped her broaden her vision. Hampers explains: “She said, ‘You don’t want to do just hair in 5,000 square feet — it’ll be a hair warehouse. You want a day spa! And I said, ‘Yes!... What is a day spa?’” Then they gutted the space.

“Enjoy the Ride”

Hampers, who had never owned her own business and who had no experience in the beauty industry except as a client, was entranced by the day spa concept, which offered her a way to stand out among the many other salons on the famous street.

“The only thing that I can tell you about how I got involved in this is how I get involved in everything: I love to do things I don’t know anything about,” explains Hampers. “That’s what’s exciting to me.” Hampers says she can relate to the car company slogan “Life Is an Adventure, Enjoy the Ride,” and says ifs the rule she’s lived by all her career.

After working as a management consultant in the early ‘60s, Hampers attended law school to “see what it was like.” She practiced advanced tax law until 1975, when she got a call from the Massachusetts Office of Administration and Finance asking if she was interested in applying for the position of Commissioner of Revenue.

“I said I didn’t know much about what the Commissioner of Revenue does, but after the interview they recommended me for the position. I was mulling it over when I got a call from the governor’s office trying to set a date to swear me in,” she remembers with a rueful laugh. “It would have been embarrassing to turn it down when the governor wanted you. And I had three small children at the time (my youngest was only 4), and I thought it might be nice to take a 9-to-5-type government job.”

She went back to law in 1983 when she had her next career switch. She says, “In 19861 decided to run for state treasurer against a 22-year incumbent. I got 46% of the vote, which was pretty good at the time for a Republican in Massachusetts.” Although she lost the election, she gained the attention of Sen. Bob Dole and Vice President George Bush. Dole’s campaign staff asked her to appear at a local function representing the Republican party, but Hampers declined, unsure if she wanted to publicly support a political candidate at the time.

“Then my secretary told me I had gotten a call from George Bush. I thought it was his campaign staff so I didn’t call back because I thought it was for a fund-raiser or something,” she says.

The calls continued to come, and Hampers continued to ignore them — until she got one from the White House. “My secretary said, ‘You’d better return this one.’“

Vice President Bush explained he had heard very good reports about her campaign, and he wanted her to lead his presidential campaign in Massachusetts. “I said Mr. Vice President, pardon me, but I really don’t know much about you or what you stand for,” she remembers. So Bush arranged to meet Hampers and her husband in Massachusetts, where Bush spent an hour answering their questions about his stand on such issues as health care (her husband is a doctor), Social Security, and welfare.

“I was very taken with him,” she says, explaining why she then signed on as co-chairperson of his Massachusetts campaign. When Bush was elected president, he appointed Hampers Assistant Secretary of Commerce.

“I went out to all communities, including U.S. territories, to try and stimulate local economic development. I would preach to people the value of entrepreneurship,” she relates. “After four years of this, it occurred to me that I didn’t have the credentials to be preaching this. Running a business is quite different from telling someone else how to run one.”

One day, Hampers simply asked her hairstylist, who had been colouring her hair for 10 years, if he had ever thought of going into business for himself. “He said he thought about it every day but didn’t because the start-up capital was prohibitive. So I asked, ‘What if I put up the money and the business expertise and we went in together?’

“All I knew about Mark Giuliano was that he had been doing my hair every six weeks for 10 years,” Hampers admits. She knew he was a talented hairstylist, but after a year it became apparent the business relationship wasn’t going to work, so she took over the salon completely and bought from him the exclusive rights to use the name Giuliano.

After the partnership dissolved, Hampers kicked salon growth into high gear. She expanded its operation from five days a week to seven, enlarged the day spa from 5,000 square feet to 7,500, and quadrupled its staff from 10 employees to 40.

“We started getting booked so heavily on Saturdays that people could only get an appointment time three weeks away. We realized we would start losing these people so we took an informal survey and found that they were very interested in coming on Sundays,” Hemper says. So she added a skeleton crew on Sundays. “Now we’ve found these people are booked in advance so we added a second person in this area because we were turning walk-ins away,” she adds. They added a small crew on Mondays as well.

A Step Apart Is a Step Above

The day spa concept Hampers and Vocell developed was a salon/day spa that emphasized the influences of the environment and nature. “The whole idea was to open up the space and make it spacious and free-walking so that people would really notice the salon and spa as both separate entities and one entity. The second concept was to develop a natural feeling. In Boston, environmental consciousness is a big issue and we communicated that with colors and materials and shapes,” says Vocell.

Vocell used shades of beige, brown, and greens. “The center of the salon is shaped like an octagon to remind clients of an earth-type shape,” Vocell says. “We used a lot of color washes on the walls and simulated marble on the counters and had landscape murals painted. The most important thing of all is to give clients the feeling that they’re someplace else, not in the hustle bustle of a major city.

“We give the message that they are really going to experience relaxation and rejuvenation of the spirit and mind. All the casework is custom-designed to support that concept All the stations have curves. The feet that everything is rounded, combined with strategically placed colors, brings subliminal messages to clients that the earth is valuable, the environment is valuable.”

The Same, But Different

Clients got the message and came in droves. The day spa in particular was such a draw that when a 2,500-square- foot space opened in an adjoining building, Hampers snapped it up to expand her spa services. This time she enjoined the services of her interior designer, Sara Lederman, owner of AIW Designs in Beverly, Mass., also a client of the spa.

Lederman picked up on the colors used in the main salon, but muted and deepened them. 1 looked at the original side where all the activity is — the hairdressers, the nail technicians, lively music and a constant flow of clients. This side had to be much quieter. I related both sides through colour, but on this side they are more subdued. The drapes on the original side are replicated on the spa side in the shade of green, but I used shutters in the spa so I could filter the light. You definitely feel like you’re going into a more restful area.”

With the expansion Hampers incorporated some new services, including nutrition counseling, yoga classes, acupuncture, and treatment space for a plastic surgeon who performs collagen injections, varicose vein removal, resurfacing, and laser surgery. The expanded area also has four treatment rooms, a second makeup area, two pedicure rooms, two Vichy showers, a shower and locker room, and a dining room complete with fountain, chandelier, and tablecloths where clients can dine on meals ordered from a restaurant downstairs.

In both designs, retail products have high visibility. In the main salon, Vocell built retail displays for nail products right above the nail stations, which fit up against the outside of the octagon where the hair stations are. “Manicurists need to sell products and explain the value of professional products. When they are right on display it makes the products and services special,” she says.

The average retail ticket at Giuliano is $24 (the average service ticket is $63), but Hampers is trying to boost sales overall. “Retail is only 10% of salon sales and... there are salons doing as much as 40%. Let’s face it Retail is your bread and butter. We’ve tried all kinds of incentives. We pay 10% on retail sales, but our staff is doing so well simply with their service percentage that the retail isn’t high priority. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do it,” she says.

Perhaps in this way Giuliano is much like every other salon, but in so many others, it is a complete original.

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