Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review February 2010.
By Craig Smith
When Sandina Bailo and her business partner Lee Richardson opened Sala Salon in downtown Napa, they had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Still, they knew they would have their share of unknowns. They just didn’t know what they would be.
“Sala is an Aveda Salon. Aveda has a great reputation world wide,” said Bailo. “We knew we would offer our guests an experience unlike any they’d ever had in a salon, but we didn’t know how far reaching that could be.” They found out almost immediately, “A guest recently called to tell us that when she came in that morning, she was very down. She called a few hours after she left to thank us, saying she felt so cared for and relaxed while she was here that she almost broke out in tears.” Smiling, Bailo added, “It brought tears to my eyes to hear her say it.”
Bailo and Richardson want the Sala experience to be positive from the moment a guest contacts them. “Coming here should be a peace of mind experience. This is our home, and we want people to feel welcomed when they enter.”
Bailo grew up mostly in San Jose and Chico. After graduating from San Francisco State with a degree in film, she spent twenty years as a motion picture sound editor, specifically as a Foley Editor – the one who adds life to scenes on the screen. Ready for a change, she bought her father’s pizza parlor when he moved from San Jose to Oregon. It was the last Shakey’s Pizza in the Bay Area, and she ran it for six years before selling it in 2007.
She and Richardson, who has been doing hair in the Napa Valley for years, and her hair since she moved to Napa in ’86, were talking about the next step in their respective lives. Both wanted to do something in downtown Napa and wanted to be able to give more to the community. It was critical that they do something they truly believed in. Richardson presented the idea of bringing a Lifestyle Salon to the valley. Enter Aveda, and the perfect match was made.
“We like their way of doing business. Aveda didn’t jump on the ‘green’ bandwagon, they were early pioneers,” said Bailo. Aveda has been doing wind powered manufacturing since the seventies. Their products all have a plant or flower base, instead of petroleum, wax or other synthetics. As a result, the products are not only better for you; they make you want to take a deep breath when you walk in the salon. The most common reaction from guests is, “Wow. It smells good in here.”
Aveda believes the only way to sell products is by educating the guests – and the staff. “We need to know our guest’s concerns before we try to match them with a product, and we want to make sure they have the same results at home that they have here.” The team at Sala is composed of employees, not just contractors and all receive on-going training.
Mostly though, it’s the little touches that count at Sala. Guests might receive an unexpected hand massage while talking with someone on the staff, just because it feels good. For men, Bailo and Richardson think it’s important to re-create the barbershop experience, which was very much a social experience. A large wooden table and chairs lend themselves to group meetings, either planned or spontaneous. “We can fit sixty chairs in here, so it’s perfect.” All of the art work on the walls is by local artists, and is for sale. The young artists group Wandering Rose likes the space, and wants to work with the partners. The salon recently hosted a series of puppet shows, “Cirque du Café.” Not what you’d expect in a salon, but this is Sala.
The best way Bailo can sum up Sala? “Our goal is to make your day.”