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Salon built ties to clients by helping them dye their hair at home

After working at Pavlova Salon East in Wading

After working at Pavlova Salon East in Wading River for more than 17 years, Kerri Sutherland, 33, was excited to finally fulfill a longtime dream: owning the salon she came of age in. But just three weeks after signing the contract, the salon had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Open again now, operations look very different. 

After working at Pavlova Salon East in Wading River for more than 17 years, Kerri Sutherland, 33, was excited to finally fulfill a longtime dream: She and her husband, Jimmy Sutherland, 34, bought the business. 

But just three weeks after signing the contract, the Sutherlands' joy over their new "baby"  turned to panic as the state ordered the closure of nonessential businesses. 

Knowing they had to do something to keep Pavlova afloat during the shutdown, the couple began offering custom hair dye kits to go  and made instructional videos showing customers how to apply the dye at home. 

They also crafted a "buy one, get one half off" special on hair care products and sold $100 gift cards, pledging to donate $10 to Stony Brook Hospital for the purchase of personal protective equipment for each card sold. 

Kerri Sutherland spoke with Newsday about the moves. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

How did you come up with the idea of to-go hair dye kits?

I saw other salons ... offering to-go kits on Instagram and Facebook, but I was afraid of doing it ourselves because, in my mind, as a stylist ... you never want to give clients a taste of what it's like to do their color at home because there's always the chance that, in the end, you can lose that business.  But I quickly realized that the demand was there and that if we didn't offer these kits then our clients would simply go and buy them somewhere else. 

How do you feel about the kits now?

In an unexpected way, [the kits] allowed us to form a stronger bond with our clients.  [All I kept hearing from them] were words of ... gratitude like,  "Picking up this color is all I look forward to." Especially in a time like this, it's so rewarding to be able to give that feeling to our clients.

How much did the kits cost?

The kits were $60 and included the client's custom color formula, which was already mixed, a brush to apply, gloves, and stain remover. Overall, we sold about 150 kits. ... Despite this initiative, the loss of business for us is undeniable.

How are things different now that you've reopened?

We don't have our full 10-stylist staff here all at once. We're capped at seven, so they work in shifts. We have Plexiglas at the front desk and dividers in between every station, as well as curtains hanging in between the sink chairs where clients get their hair washed. We no longer have clients wait inside the salon. We have them wait in their cars, or outside in chairs we've set up there, and call them when we're ready for them. We also have disposable capes and hired a cleaning service to detail the salon once a week.

How confident are you about the business' viability?

I think we're going to be fine. Our clients are excited to come in and see us again. Our phone's going off. We have appointments on the books. ... We just have to keep going and trust that it's all going to be OK and somehow maybe even better than before. 

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