Monday, December 12, 2011

Beauty in Verdun

Smart young gal...................HF&RV







MONTREAL - Residents of Verdun who are seeking downtown style – at affordable prices – can now find what they are looking for at a swish new Wellington St. beauty salon and spa.

Run by a 23-year-old entrepreneur, Hills Coiffure et Spa was a finalist in this year’s Contessa Awards, the Canadian beauty industry’s most prestigious competition, in the best interior design of a salon category.

Despite the elegant décor – exposed brick walls, custom-designed mirrors and lighting, a coffee bar, a glass-enclosed pedicure room and sleek modern furniture – the 2,500-square-foot salon offers clients down-to-earth friendly pampering at affordable prices.

Services include hair cuts starting at $45, body treatments, facials, waxing, manicures, makeup application and massages. Product lines include Dermalogica, Kerastase and OPI.

After making a cappuccino for a visitor, Ashley Hill and her parents, Jay and Kelly Hill, explained how the business became a family affair.

Originally, Hill thought she would go into the education field like her mother and older sister. But after attending a session of the early childhood education program at Dawson College, Ashley realized that what she really wanted to do was follow her childhood dream of working in the beauty business.

So she signed up for makeup classes at Montreal’s Inter-Dec College.

Before long, she was thinking seriously about opening up her own business.

“I always wanted to open a salon,” she explained.

Members of the Hill family, who are originally from Brossard, decided to pitch in to make her dream happen.

Her parents, who had already invested in a few buildings in the Montreal area, saw a business opportunity for themselves and their daughter.

They figured that Verdun, which is experiencing an influx of new residents from the Montreal area, would be good place to establish their daughter’s salon – and a good real-estate investment for them.

“My wife watches the real-estate market,” said Jay Hill, 54.

“It’s up and coming,” added Kelly Hill, 52.

Former Gazette reporter Mary Lamey, now a realtor with Century 21 who specializes in properties in the Verdun area, agreed.

She said the neighbourhood has traditionally been blue collar but that lately more people have been moving there from trendy – but expensive – downtown Montreal neighbourhoods such as the Plateau Mont Royal. Lamey said new restaurants and other businesses have been steadily opening to serve the residents of Verdun’s popular new condo projects.

“It’s like the Plateau used to be,” she said.

The first day the Hills looked at properties, they found a well-priced two-storey building on Wellington with a retail space on the first floor and a rental unit on the second floor. Ashley’s father put in a firm offer on the spot.

The first floor, which used to be a card shop, required a complete gutting and renovation job.

The Hills hired a design firm that specializes in beauty salons for the basic layout, but the family picked the furniture and fixtures.

Her dad, a contractor, then spent the next eight months completely gutting and renovating the building and creating the salon.

“There were seven layers of floors of plywood and carpet,” he said, adding that he had to jackhammer the old concrete floors and completely rebuild all the floor joists before laying down a new floor.

The family invested $320,000 in the renovations, he said, but he noted the price would normally have been higher because “I worked for free.”

The work was delayed for several weeks when a strike at the Old Port last year meant they couldn’t get access to a shipment of slate-like porcelain floor tiles they had ordered from Italy, Ashley said.

The salon was finally finished last November. Family members worked around the clock, completing the finishing touches. Ashley’s older sister went into labour while unpacking boxes and gave birth to a boy two hours before the grand opening.

Since then, the client list has grown and the staff members now include three full-time and two part-time employees.

Ashley’s parents remain silent partners in the business, she said. Asked about profitably, Hill said the salon now generates a positive cash flow, but that it will still take several years before she is able to repay the loan to her parents.

But her father makes it clear that they are hands off about the business.

“She runs the show,” he said.

On the Web:                              HF&RV............Cheers ! & Merry Christmas  -Les

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