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Looking Good – Recession Resistant

     Tucked just off Old Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff is a new business, smelling of fresh paint and profes- sional hair products. McSweeny is a salon, located near Mama Burger and Just Wireless. Longtime hairdressers Don McKenzie and Marc Potter just opened the salon, moving from The Shop, another hair establishment in the historic downtown region.

     Economic indicators are not a big concern in this line of work, says Potter, who has been a stylist for 35 years. “No matter how bad things get, everybody is still concerned with how they look,” he said. “It’s the last vestige,” he added, calling his line of work recession-resistant. “Once you get to the realm of ‘you don’t really care what things look like anymore,’ we’re right next to total collapse.”

     One benefit to opening a shop now is lower rent. Potter and McKenzie signed a five-year lease at a reduced rate. Potter has been watching rates for rental spaces in the downtown area and says many landlords are making deals. Fortunately for McSweeny and other salons, business remains solid.

     The owner of Styles the Salon agrees somewhat with the idea that her business is recession-resistant but says things have slowed down. Kim Marr worked for several years as a stylist at the salon before purchasing the establishment on Route 66 just east of North Fourth Street. “People are downsizing, maybe spreading their appointments out longer or not doing color,” said Marr. She and her fellow stylists focus on continuing education to stay current in the profession. And, Marr adds, it’s about human connection; a computer can’t replace you. Most of the customers at Styles the Salon are return clients but the beauty salon does welcome walk-ins.

     Discount salon SuperCuts specializes in walk-ins and is reporting a brisk business in Flagstaff, especially at the Milton Road location. Stylist Candace Griffin says people need a decent haircut at an economic price. “We get the snow bunnies, the sun bunnies and the college students who want a no frills, good haircut,” said Griffin.

     Future hair stylists are keeping a related business hopping. Empire Beauty Schools’ Flagstaff location could have a waiting list for students in 2010. Donna Biggiotti, a manager with Empire Beauty Schools, says in a down economy, many people are looking to make a career change, which is why there is a heightened interest among potential new students.            

     The business side of Empire Beauty Schools is also doing well, exceeding budget goals for the past several months. Student stylists spend a minimum of 1,600 hours working in the school before they complete requirements for a license. Jonathan Lam, an Empire Beauty Schools career planning specialist, says business is booming, including customers with advanced education degrees. “A lot of people are looking for work and they have to keep their appearances up,” said Lam. Beauty schools are definitely recession- proof, he added.

     There are more than 90 beauty salons and barber shops in Flagstaff and Sedona. 

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