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Fashion

Innovative salon concept takes off in Western Pa.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Alyssa Bracken, owner of Eastside Salon 5 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, colors Castle Shannon resident Kaisa Gallego's hair on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Alyssa Bracken, owner of Eastside Salon 5 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, colors Castle Shannon resident Kaisa Gallego's hair on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Meshia Robinson, owner of Eastside Salon 2 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, styles hair for Terri Glenn, of Pitcairn, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Meshia Robinson, owner of Eastside Salon 2 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, styles hair for Terri Glenn, of Pitcairn, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Michelle Maust, right, owner of Eastside Salon 7 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, does nails for Trudy O'Nan, of Regent Square, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Michelle Maust, right, owner of Eastside Salon 7 at Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, does nails for Trudy O'Nan, of Regent Square, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Steven Breuner, one of the partners of Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, gives a media tour on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Steven Breuner, one of the partners of Sola Salon Studios in East Liberty, gives a media tour on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.

Michelle Maust, Nina Bacco, Erin Carr and Shana Francis would have never had the financial backing or business expertise to open their own beauty shops.

But, today, they are all business owners.

They are part of the Sola Salon Studios concept where individuals rent space in a shared building. Sola offers salon professionals the freedom and benefits of salon ownership without the upfront costs and risks associated with opening a traditional salon.

This innovative salon model empowers hairdressers, estheticians, nail techs, massage therapists and other like-minded professionals to take control of their lives and their careers.

Sola provides high-end, fully equipped salon studios alongside the support and tools these individuals need to launch their salon business. “We remove so many of the risks involved with business ownership,” says Steven Breuner, who with business partner David Raduziner owns the East Liberty and Monroeville Sola locations — the first in Pennsylvania — as well as eight in Tennessee and California.

Maust, an owner at the East Liberty location, worked at a salon for 20 years and wasn't looking for a change.

“But when I heard about it, I was curious, so I went to check it out and decided to go for it,” she says. “I never would have been able to do this on my own.”

Her clientele has followed.

“I love it here,” says Deanna DeMasi of Morningside, who has been a client of Maust's for two decades. “It's something different and it's fresh and new. … Plus, Michelle is here. It's definitely worth coming in and experiencing it.”

Giving professionals the opportunity to own their own business is a passion of Breuner and Raduziner. The East Liberty spot has nine salons and 20 chairs. Monroeville has 16 salons and 37 chairs. A Wexford location will open in April.

They chose the Pittsburgh area because of Breuner's experience owning nearly 60 Super Cuts in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was also a good choice, Breuner says, because of the work ethic and the growth and revitalization of the city.

“We felt strongly about this market and know there are many beauty professionals who want to realize the dream of salon ownership,” Breuner says. “I was so taken with what David brought to me about this concept. I don't do hair, and, in fact, I don't even have any hair, but I thought this was a great idea.”

Breuner and Raduziner take care of everything from the furniture to the lighting to the heating and air conditioning. The salon owner pays a weekly fee, which starts at $275. Tenants sign a one- or two-year commitment. They share a restroom, laundry facility and a common waiting area.

It wasn't easy getting the approval for this business here because in Pennsylvania, “booth rental” is illegal, which means a salon can't rent out a chair to an individual, Raduziner says. They are vetted by the Pennsylvania Board of Cosmetology, he says.

“It's an exciting time for Pittsburgh,” says Jennie Wolff, vice president of marketing and stylists programs at Sola Salon Studios, based in Denver, Colo. “Steve and David are very passionate and such wonderful operators. They are breaking new ground there. It's not just about selling space to us and to them. It's about creating entrepreneurial opportunities for those in the beauty business.”

Sola, which started in 2004, has more than 265 locations with 6,500 business owners.

“Think of it as a mini-mall of beauty and spa shops,” Raduziner says. “We are the Uber of hair salons. We are innovative.”

There is access 24-7 and owners can decorate the space however they want.

Having such control is wonderful, says Bacco of North Versailles, who is in the Monroeville location. She says there isn't the usual salon drama.

“I can come in at 3 a.m. on Sunday if I want to or I can do a client's hair at 11 o'clock at night if I want to,” Bacco says. “It's about being there for the client and, with owning my own space, I can be there for them. It's perfect.”

Hairdresser Carr of North Huntingdon, who is based in the Monroeville location, likes the freedom and flexibility.

Francis, a hairdresser from Pitcairn, with a salon in the Monroeville location, says the privacy of having her own space is a wonderful benefit for both her and her clients. She is in control of her own finances and availability.

“It feels so good to own something that's mine, Francis says.

Interaction with Breuner and Raduziner is ongoing. They provide other services, such as information on insurance, disability benefits, beauty products and educational opportunities from styling to business advice and client scheduling programs.

“Steve and David have been wonderful,” Maust says. “I have no regrets. They have been so helpful and they researched everything. I loved my other job but this, this has been a life changer.”

Sola Salon Studios: 5921 Baum Blvd., East Liberty, and 300 Mall Blvd., Monroeville. Details: solasalonstudios.com

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7889 or jharrop@tribweb.com.

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