Oak Bluffs business owner Dana Hughes is fascinated with smart marketing. “Like fantastic window displays, things people will remember ... in this economy, you have to have somebody remember you. That’s hard to do,” said the owner of Hair by Dana, one of the anchor year-round businesses on Circuit avenue for 15 years, shortly after she closed her shop in mid March.
Now Ms. Hughes has opened a bigger, better, hipper version of the salon, one door down in a larger space. Perhaps her investment in the future, at a time when businesses around the country are closing their doors, will be what people remember.
“I always have a positive outlook, and I know how to work hard,” said the Island-raised operator. “If you know how to work hard you can get through just about any bad time.”
It has served her well as a single woman running a successful business on her own all these years. Ms. Hughes attributes some of her business success to the strong work ethic her parents instilled in her. “My parents just worked all their lives, and that’s how I learned; you have to work for everything, nobody’s going to give you a dime if you don’t work for it,” she said. “That’s what they taught me and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The decision to expand her business was about coming to a crossroad, where she would either close the business which had outgrown its space, or move on to the next level. She did some soul searching. “I’m at that point in my life, I want a calming, Zen, comfortable atmosphere,” she said. “I mean, I work so many hours, I might as well be in the perfect work environment.”
Despite the struggling economy, she is creating her ideal environment, betting on better times and putting her money on it.
Not for the first time, either, Ms. Hughes noted. “Back in the early nineties, when it was a bad economy, I did the same thing. I guess I like going against the flow,” she said. She opened up her first styling salon in 1994, after renting a chair across the street at Benito’s for two and a half years. Trained at Blaine, The School, in Hyannis, Ms. Hughes worked for a few years on high-fashion Newbury street in Boston before moving back to the Island, where she’d grown up since the age of three.
Ms. Hughes said this time of year is the perfect time to have made this transition, as it’s all about renewal: “I love the springtime, I love seeing people painting the outsides of the buildings, people raking their yards, smelling the earth growing again, things moving forward, so that’s kind of makes it perfect timing.”
The expansion wouldn’t have happened without her team, she said. “I have some wonderful staff. They are so motivated, very upbeat and positive people around me. They are a big factor right now in my ability to make this move.”
She’ll host an official open house for the new Hair by Dana salon sometime in May — she’s waiting for one of her stylists, Kelly Murphy, to return from maternity leave.
The new space is 300 square feet larger and has an additional chair, which means she’ll bring in another hair stylist, and more clientele. The salon also boasts a manicure/pedicure station, and it has a larger retail section, with space for some local artisans to show and sell jewelry and fashion accessories.
“I love giving new hairdressers a start,” Ms. Hughes said. She makes it a point to stay on top of her own game, too: “I try to go, at least once a year if not twice a year, to some kind of class; if it’s not a cutting class, it’s a coloring class. I like to be stimulated and motivated and know what’s current out there.”
The investment in her business and her own future is an investment in her staff and in her community. Ms. Hughes said. If her business were in a different place, somewhere off-Island, she said, she probably wouldn’t have taken on an expansion. But because of this closely knit community, she’s got a wide circle of support and many friends who were able to lend their hands-on expertise — especially those in the construction industry. “I just really had a lot of great people around me giving me their points of view and advice, and helping out,” she said.
One of them, her father’s wife, Joan Hughes, who is an architectural designer, helped Dana design the new salon and tailor make it to her dream. “This is pretty much my true self, who I am, my soul,” the salon operator said. “Joan helped me figure it out. We took a lot of the old, and I’ve got a lot of new, too, and we combined the two. Making a place for a lot of plants, and the color scheme, are huge factors ... I’m an earth person, and I like warm things around me.”
First-time visitors coming in to check out the new salon and returning clientele will receive a free product sample if they bring in an unusual stone found on an Island beach, Ms. Hughes said. The stones will be added to the rock garden she’s creating amongst her jungle of plants. She hopes that the oasis of lush, tropical plants up front, by the windows, will be visually pleasing to passersby on the street and inviting to customers walking in, she said. Maybe even something people will remember.