Rich and Holly Bobrow have 35 years each of experience in the real estate business, Rich as a developer and Holly as an attorney. But when an opportunity presented itself to develop a different kind of business, the wife-and-husband team took it. They’ve become the northern Fairfield County/New Haven County franchise holders of Sola Salon.

Sola Salon has more than 300 locations around the country. Each location offers independent stylist and estheticians premium salon spaces to own and operate their individual boutique salon. The Bobrows opened their first location last year where they live in Westport and followed it just this January with a Wilton location in the River Park Shopping Plaza at 5 River Rd..

It was a good spot for what they wanted as location matters for this business model–they require a lot of parking and an ability to build out to customize their needs.

“We found this unbelievable, beautiful space. We figured if we don’t jump on it, we’d lose out. It turned out beautifully, we’re so happy with it,” says Holly.

The space is modern and clean, with most of the stylist suites ringing the outside, and featuring big windows to allow lots of exterior light to brighten the space. Two of the suites have been rented out already with a couple others reserved and still more available.

The suites vary in sizes and configuration, but each comes equipped with at least one chair and client sink, great cabinetry and storage and furnishings that a salon stylist would need. They can customize suites for makeup artists, wax and facial estheticians and massage therapists. But the beauty of the business concept is that each suite is completely independent and controlled by its occupant.

For the stylists, Sola offers a great opportunity for them to be on their own, in control of their own operation–from scheduling clients to cash flow to environment and state of mind. All the doors and cabinets–and cash drawers–lock; the stylists need to have their own supplies when it comes to scissors, combs, dryers, color, shampoo, etc., but everything else is taken care of. Each suite has separate climate control over heat and AC; soundproofing and individualized speakers allow each suite to play its own music. The decor can be customized–stylists can choose from selected paint colors and they can bring in their own art or furniture.

“They’re their own business owners. We don’t have anything to do with their business. Our job is to support them anyway we can, to help them grow their business–to help with marketing, education, artistic as well as business. We do that through classes we bring into the salon, for color, styling and more. Plus Sola headquarters does regional education and online tutorials that the stylists can access.” Holly explains.

Each stylist can come and go as they please, operating whenever he or she wants, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about this concept. Stylists totally can arrange their schedule to fit their lifestyle and clients’ needs. It really allows someone to have complete control over their business and their life.” Holly says.

Many stylists who are ready to run their own business, who have their own established client base, but who don’t want the investment of all the overhead, often find this option empowering.

“Here’s there’s no startup costs, everything’s built for them, there’s no renovating, it’s all here. The fact that we’ve done this totally takes the headache away. They can also sell whatever styling products or accessories they want, and the profit is entirely their own to keep. Sometimes in a salon you’re told what you must sell and you’re told you’ll get a commission, but frequently from what we’ve heard, the commission sometimes never materializes. This eliminates all that, takes away the drama–which in a salon, there’s so much,” says Holly.

That’s an interesting, backstage glimpse, as many people who aren’t in the salon and beauty industry may not realize. Sometimes the culture within a salon can be more cutthroat and competitive than clients notice. Stylists who miss a day may find that a colleague one chair over will poach a client without thinking twice.

Salon Sola doesn’t have a receptionist–who can sometimes be the source of salon drama. Instead, each stylist handles booking their own appointments themselves. “Sometimes a salon receptionist will give the wrong information or tell people, ‘I can’t squeeze you in, they’re booked.’ This eliminates all that. This way the stylist can say, ‘I’ll come in at 7 a.m.,’” Richard adds.

Giving individual stylists the opportunity to have control over their own businesses was a big part of the appeal for the Bobrows. But they found that learning about a new industry has been fun for the themselves as well.

“They even took me to the hair show in New York City, which was a real treat,” Richard says. Holly agrees. “It’s a happy business.

It’s also often a refreshing change for clients.

“Some stylists, when a client comes in, they close the door, it’s totally private. They love it–they get one-on-one attention, they can say whatever they want to say, no one is listening to the conversation. If they have a personal issue, if you talk about it in the open of a big salon it can get dicey. What we’re finding is people even hang out to talk with their stylists. It’s more personal,” Richard says.

The Stylists Point of View

For Patrizia “Trish” Cavone, a Wilton mom who spent 11 years working as a stylist in other salons in town, the Sola Salon concept appealed for several reasons.

“It’s more personal, you get to use your creativity more compared to everyone, where they’re always watching you and how much product you’re using. The hours are better. Clients feel more comfortable talking to you–my clients love it. It’s more peaceful too. This is the best thing I’ve ever done,” she says.

Success now rests completely on a stylists shoulders in a situation like Sola, but Trish says it’s gratifying being in charge of her own business, and reassuring.

“In a salon, if you miss a day of work, somebody might take your client. Now you can take a vacation when you want to, you have control of your clients.”

Gwen Covert, who moved from Salon Lea Lauren, agrees that owning her own business is night and day different from working as an employee.

“There’s definitely a lot more–we have to market ourselves, we have to think about taxes. But we don’t have distractions. We don’t have to hear other people’s conversations, we don’t have to worry about the front desk or the shampoo people, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know my clients on a different level. It’s much more personalized,” she says.

Most of her clients know she’s moved to Sola Salon, and she hopes that new clients will find the salon, which is on the second floor of the plaza, above Campus Jewelers–with the big blue circle in the window. “Look up!” she laughs.

She’s very appreciative of the setup and help that the Bobrows are providing. “They’ve been so nice, very, very helpful. It’s great!”

Opening in Wilton

The Bobrows say that for them too, opening in Wilton “has been a pleasure.”

“We’ve built in New York City, other parts of Fairfield County. The people in Wilton were a pleasure. The Building Department, Health Department, Fire Department, Planning & Zoning, everybody. I said to [first selectman] Lynne [Vanderslice], ‘It’s as if you told them you wanted businesses to come in.’” Richard says. “It’s been smooth and really good.”

To reach Trish Cavone, call 203.434.7485, or visit her Sola Salon webpage to book online. To reach Gwen Covert, call 203.241.6915 or visit her Sola Salon webpage to book online.