Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review March 2008.
By Craig Smith
For Terry Brown, owner of The Arrangement at 821 Coombs Street, the decision to move to America was literally decided by a coin toss.
Terry was living in Northern England. She had two sisters who were married, one living in Fairfield and one in Australia, both of whom had sent Christmas cards bragging about the terrific weather and great lifestyle at each location. The weather in England, to put it mildly, was awful.
“Let’s emigrate,” Terry said to her mother. Neither cared which place they chose, so a coin was tossed and it came up America. They packed up and moved in 1963.
“I’m so thankful that we ended up here,” Terry says.
Terry had just completed a three-year apprenticeship to become a journeyman hairdresser and thought that with her years of training, getting a job here would be easy. However, she soon discovered that she needed a license first, so she went to cosmetology school for nine months. During a student competition, she met a salon owner who was impressed with her technique and hired her. Terry worked at several salons over the years, and became good friends with two co-workers, Lena Beal and Wendy Bosson. The three used to help Barbara Wiggins, owner of the Mustard Seed clothing store, stage fashion shows. They would talk over wine of how much fun it would be to all go into business together. Things got serious and they began looking for a location.
Their Realtor showed them several places, but Terry’s favorite was just as bad as it was good. The site had been a tractor store, garage and pool hall. The ceiling was yellow with a century’s worth of cigarette smoke. At one time the building was so large it had to be partitioned to form two spaces. The side that Terry liked had no utilities. Still, she could see the potential in the 16-foot walls, tin ceiling and beautiful tiled façade, so they signed the lease.
“I have always been one who loves a challenge, but I really had no idea what I was in for,” she recalls. “I hand-drew a building plan on a piece of paper and took it to the planning department. They were very gracious in that they didn’t laugh (at least not that I am aware).”
Friends pitched in and helped to build the business. “I have so many wonderful memories of watching it transform,” Terry says. The Arrangement opened the day before Thanksgiving in 1985. Sadly, three months later, it flooded, along with the rest of downtown.
“As a result, we had our first of many experiences of sand bagging,” Terry says. “Although it may seem like a complete catastrophe of sorts, I found the situation to be gratifying on so many different levels. As water had risen three and a half feet deep at our windows, neighbors and friends were all there to help. Even strangers would walk by, lend a hand for a while and then move on.”
Partner Wendy Bosson left The Arrangement when she got married, Lena Beal left a few years later and Barbara Wiggins relocated to the Napa Town Center, leaving Terry as the sole owner since the mid-nineties.
Terry saw the changes as an opportunity and expanded her business to include a boutique.
Today, The Arrangement is a strong business and includes a full-service salon, spa and retail boutique. There are ten hair stylists, two manicurists, two estheticians and four part-time receptionists.
Terry credits the staff, some of whom have been with her from the beginning, for much of her success. In fact, when Terry left for Europe on a six-week holiday, as she was walking out the door she realized that she had forgotten to leave a to-do list – but then realized that she didn’t need to.
When asked what she believes to be the success of the business, Terry replied “education, education, education.” She and the staff attend trainings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Arrangement specializes in Vidal Sassoon technique and Bumble and bumble (of New York) straight-edge razor-cutting.
On-site, day-long workshops are held and the staff meets regularly to share business and hair-related ideas. One result of this effort is that numerous receptionists have become interested in the business and are now hair stylists themselves.
Terry has volunteered for, and is a past president of, both the Napa Humane Society and the Napa Valley Wildlife Association. She also organized a toy drive at Napa State Hospital for eight years, until the children’s ward was closed.
Terry can’t imagine doing anything else. “I love this industry. It continues to challenge my creativity and growth.”
The Arrangement is open Monday through Saturday until at least 8 p.m. (707) 253-2811.