When the Steven Mancini salon packed up for Westport last May, it was seen as one more bit of bad news in a spate of commercial real estate closings for Wilton Center. But over the summer, the space Mancini had vacated in Old Post Office square suddenly started coming alive, abuzz with contractors building, painting and more.
Toni Ramadani, who owns neighboring restaurant Portofino’s and the entire property, had decided to open a salon in the space on his own. But rather than enter the day-to-day business himself, he called on Suzanne Baumann, a colorist who had formerly worked at Steven Mancini and who had a loyal clientele base, to build it from the ground up and manage it.
Baumann says the call was something that must have been fate, providence or spiritually-sent. Searching for work in other salons for the right fit, the personable Brit with 28 years of hair color experience in Fairfield County still hadn’t found something that felt like the right move. She was even considering opening up a salon of her own, but hadn’t located the right place.
“When I left here I made a decision to go to Westport to a salon, but the environment wasn’t great for me. I specialize, and it was a salon where everyone does everything, so I wasn’t really flourishing. And I missed being in Wilton. I love Wilton. I think this is an awesome town. So I had started looking around here for myself, looking for places to open up something. I wasn’t really turned on by anything the realtor was showing me. Two days later Tony called me, ‘Suzanne, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you, Steven Mancini wouldn’t tell me where you were, la-la-la-la, help me out. This is gonna be great.’ I said, ‘Thank you, God.’”
Ramadani had decided to name the business The Salon Lea Lauren after his daughter, Lea, and his wife, whose middle name is Lauren, says Baumann. With such a personal mission at stake, Baumann knew he must have been putting a lot of faith in her.
“He knew, what was happening with people, what they were doing, if they’re dedicated, especially in the beginning. He knew that was me, that I love what I do and I love this town. So there you go. It worked,” she recalls.
From the start, they made the salon a lot calmer and simpler esthetically. With warmer wood stylist stations and neutral walls, the emphasis is more on the clients than on the feeling of being in a chi-chi place.
“I think it creates a calmer atmosphere. This is all Tony’s work. Tony is a restaurateur, and I think in restaurants you create that feeling and he’s brought it into the salon, which has really worked. Definitely, for me, it works. It makes me a lot calmer, so my work is a lot better,” Baumann says.
Baumann has also been charged with bringing in stylists. She’s started slowly, with a smaller staff, and hopes to eventually grow a bit more, without going overboard.
“We’ve got stylists, color, and people can come in for a blowout. We also have a woman that comes in a couple times a month and does eyelash extensions. She’s very good. She’s actually a scientist so she really gets it. That’s it, for the moment. Maybe we’ll build on services as we get busier, but I honestly want to keep this a salon, as opposed to putting too many spa services in it,” says Baumann, adding, “I’m not sure how much that works. I’ve seen it flop before. People go to a spa for that, it’s a different entity.”
One of the stylists Baumann brought in is Gwen Covert, who moved to Fairfield County after working for years in salons in New York City. “I think Wilton could use a little city,” she laughs.
Baumann calls Covert a “hair doctor.”
“Gwen is very eclectic and very, very talented, and she has vision. She works with the hair, the natural movement of the hair. It’s never this stagnant blow-dry. She knows hair, she does it in the best interest of your hair. I mean we fight our hair sometimes. But she doesn’t fight that, she makes it the best it can look. She’s amazing,” Baumann raves.
While Covert says she also enjoys doing a little cutting edge, trend-setting editorial work, as well as makeovers, she also wants to make sure her clients get a cut that works well for them and the way they live day-to-day.
“The majority of people never learn to blow-dry their hair properly. That’s the case for most. How you handle you hair is important, that’s why your hair should really be cut according to your lifestyle. A lot of people don’t have time to sit around and blow-dry their hair, so wash and wear is the answer to that,” she says.
Baumann and her team are also excited about being in Wilton Center, knowing that mixing style and location will be a convenience for people.
“We love when people stop in to say, ‘Hi!’” she says. “It’s one of the best things about being where we are.”
The Salon Lea Lauren is located at 12 Center St., next to CT Coffee. They can be reached at 203.762.6188 or online.