Selina Fitzsimmons always wanted to live on the water.
With her new venture, she now kind of does.
“I never wanted to own a business,” she said. “I didn’t want to be the boss, and I didn’t want to deal with unnecessary drama.”
Recently, we sat in her newly refurbished Vada Salon Studios. She made us coffee, and we faced a wide, beautiful view of the Conodoguinet Creek. Serene blues, grays and touches of silver color the suites.
“I used the ideas I liked from other studios to create this environment,” she said. “It’s a room I’d love to have in my own house.”
Born and raised in Mechanicsburg, Fitzsimmons has been a hairdresser for almost 15 years.
“I was in college and kept changing my major,” she said. “During the second semester of my junior year, I needed to figure out what I was going to do. I took a semester off. While waitressing, a friend who was contemplating cosmetology school suggested I do it with her.”
She’s now taken a next step in her career as owner of a salon suite in Camp Hill. What’s that? She learned about the concept one weekend in Baltimore.
“My husband is quite friendly, and we happened upon this flashy-looking guy,” she said. “My husband asked him what he did for a living. He said that he owned several salon suites.”
The suite concept allows beauty professionals to be business owners absent the big risk of starting their own, individual brick-and-mortar salons. Fully furnished, private suites operate out of a single building.
In Pennsylvania, unless you’re a licensed barber, stylists work on commission basis, where the salon takes a high portion of the income. A salon suite allows each suite-owner to keep 100 percent of their profits.
“For me, this seemed perfect,” Fitzsimmons said. “I could own my own business without being anyone’s boss. The owner brings in their own product, hires their receptionist and associates (if they choose), and makes their own schedules.”
Fitzsimmons’s first move was, naturally, a Google search.
Through that, she learned that Naples, Fla., had the highest concentration of salon suites in the country. Coincidentally, her family vacations there regularly.
“With Naples being a high-end destination area, it was the perfect place to see the best-of-the-best for inspiration,” she said. “Once there, I noted the directory and went in to snoop. It turned out one of the suite owners was a friend from a Harrisburg salon. I saw that as a sign.”
Further research showed that Camp Hill would be a good place locally for such a business. So, they went scouting potential studio locations.
“My husband found this [building] by chance,” she said. “We saw views with huge windows and natural lighting. It had plenty of parking spaces and sat across the street from Highmark on everyone’s way to work. Very visible. The location was perfect.”
Getting the business up and going wasn’t easy.
“In PA, if you want to own a traditional salon, there’s a state manual,” she said. “But there isn’t a manual for the salon suite concept. At that time (five years ago), it wasn’t easy to get answers to my questions. As we drew up plans, we had to go with our best interpretation.”
Fitzsimmons took me for a tour. Although there’s no receptionist, I was greeted by a directory on the entry wall: “Welcome to Vada Salon Studios.” The directory listed the studio’s business names as well as the location guide for each cosmetologist, barber, skin and spa professional and nail technician.
I asked about the salon’s name.
“Vada is my grandmother’s name,” she said. “I wanted to do something to honor her since I never got to meet her.”
As we walked the hall, she pointed out studio owner names on the glass doorways and then the shampoo bowls in each suite.
“They all face the windows, so clients can have a view,” she said.
Downstairs, she walked me out to reveal the patio with a seating area. Back inside, I saw more suites. I commented on the wall pictures, the framed words of affirmation and the sculpture pieces.
“My mom and I picked it all out, and my cousin and his fiancé, and my husband stayed up till five in the morning hanging artwork,” she said. “My family and best friends helped with every part of this building.”
Fitzsimmons sniffled. She opened a small cabinet and pulled out a tissue.
“I can’t find a cute tissue holder so I keep them hidden,” she remarked.
She wiped away a few tears.
“I’m just so grateful to be here knowing that this is the foundation where I will spend the rest of my career,” she said.
Vada Salon Studios is located at 1847 Center St., Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-805-4177 or visit www.vadasalonstudios.com.