Treacherous as the economic waters have been, destroying lives and careers literally left and right with no sign of respite to come, what wouldn’t anyone give to have his or her business prove to be recession proof? That is the reality of V.I.P. Hair & Nail Salon of Minneapolis’ owner/proprietor, one determinedly prevailing Tiffany Blackwell.
The enterprise thrives going two decades (19 years come March). That’s before this current economic catastrophe struck, during the worst of it, and now, as the country grapples with how to struggle out of its ever-tightening grip.
The uniqueness of this success isn’t lost on Blackwell, who readily states, “I don’t take [it] for granted. I don’t take anything for granted at all, because you don’t have to look too far. You know, people, their businesses, are failing every day.”
Devoutly Christian, she’s quick to credit more than acumen and hard work. “It is nothing but the grace of God that has kept me in business this long.” Blackwell also acknowledges the personnel she’s taken on. “We’ve got a great core group of people. They, of course, help sustain the business. And, naturally, clients. This could all be here today, gone tomorrow, very easy.”
Be all that as it may, there’s no denying what Blackwell points out, but odds are V.I.P. Hair & Nail Salon isn’t going anywhere thanks to an intangible she doesn’t mention but is clear. As the adage goes, attitude, even more than aptitude, ultimately decides one’s altitude. And the owner’s positive attitude stands as an obvious example to her employees.
Polite customer relations and professional customer service — V.I.P. is well known for both — comprise a key component of the operation. “Everyone in here, what I love is they all have heart. There are different personalities, and that’s what makes this place what it is. Every day may not run perfectly smooth, but at the end of the day we all have one another’s back. I think the key to it all is to try to see the good in everything and in everyone.”
V.I.P. Hair & Nail Salon provides full service from literally head to toe. You can get your hair cut, trimmed, washed, rinsed, whatever. Manicure, pedicure, basically be shaped up from top to bottom. The owner, very much a hands-on entrepreneur, can be seen most days, soon as you walk in the door, tending to a client, pleasantly chatting, seriously getting work done.
She began at Shear Design as a receptionist while attending high school, then went on to cosmetology school as a skin specialist. An uncle encouraged her to return to school and to obtain her license as a cosmetologist. From there, Blackwell put her shoulder to the wheel.
“I did, of course, have to take out a loan. However, I went into a space that had already been a salon. So, I didn’t have to [borrow] as much as if I’d had to do the build-out. Initial upfront costs were nothing near what it was when, for example, I had to open [at the present location], where I had to pay for the build-out.
“Stations, shampoo bowls, pedicure chair — I literally had to build the whole salon. But, at that point I had been in business for 10 years and felt comfortable [making the move], which was a blessing.”
Even businesses that’ve lasted this long have seen ups and downs, tough times, dark hours of uncertainty about the proverbial wolf at the door. Remarkably, it has been consistently steady going for V.I.P., with much more up than down.
“If you pass by on the sidewalk and look in, it’s usually bustling in here. That’s a good feeling, but then there are periods during the week or the day — hours — when it isn’t busy, when it’s a little on the quiet side. And I’m okay with that. It gives balance.”
Pressed again to comment on just how her shop manages to maintain, balance or no balance, a very healthy bottom line, Blackwell, if not quite flustered, is at something of a loss to explain it. “To be honest, I’m grateful for the clients, the staff, and first and foremost grateful to God. But, I don’t know. That may sound ignorant to some people.”
What it sounds is indicative of character. Of, perhaps, the willingness to, as the Bible says, “Walk by faith and not by sight.”
Blackwell takes a similar position on the economy in general. ”[Things] may not be changing quick enough, but that’s part of life. This is not the first time we’ve had a recession, and it won’t be the last. We find ways to work through it.” Then there is, again, her mindset: “With a healthy attitude, you make it.”
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.