A first-of-its-kind salon suite, Sola Salon Studios is now open on the south side of Missoula, eager to attract a full complement of self-employed beauty specialists.
As landlords who oversee 23 separate salon studios available for rent in Russell Park Square, mother-son co-owners Marsha Katz and Stephen Johnson allow established salon professionals to own their own business in their own personal space.
It also gives individual specialists full autonomy.
“We lease studios to hair stylists, skin care professionals, massage therapists, barbers, make-up artists, manicurists and lash experts,” said Marsha Katz. “Anyone in the beauty professions who has an established clientele and wants to own their own business and not work for someone else.”
She said it’s a new business concept that first got off the ground in Colorado in 2004. It fits in perfectly with Missoula’s booming businesses, she added.
“Our Missoula community has seen strong business growth in the past two years,” said Katz. “Sola’s expansion here will give salon professionals a new, affordable way to grow their business on their own terms. And consumers who live and work nearby will have more choices for experienced hairstylists, cosmetologists, nail techs and other professional salon services.”
So far, the owners have filled 2 of the 23 slots available in the 5,000-square-foot former Go Fetch building near the intersection of Southwest Higgins and Russell, alongside Albertsons.
Sola – for short – follows in the footsteps of Billings, which opened the first franchise in Montana. Katz plans to have her space serve not only Missoulians, but residents from nearby communities and counties.
They gutted the building, then built the individual studies – which comes in three sizes – a break room and bathrooms.
“Each of the separate studios can be leased by a beauty professional as a place to run their own business. They have the key to their studio, they have their own business name on a sign over their door, and they control their own schedule,” added Katz, who retired from the University of Montana in 2017.
Advantages abound for self-driven types who prefer being their own boss.
“No more booth rental, no more working for someone else, no more working or product selling on commission,” said Katz. “So, they are opening their own salon without having to deal with employing other people, or the overhead of owning a salon. We are their landlord, with utilities and internet included in their rent.”
Katz touts the away-from-dense business clusters location.
“Our location has tons of lighted parking, is easily accessible via Russell or Southwest Higgins, and is located on an end of town that has seen a great deal of residential growth over the years — without the traffic congestion on Reserve and the parking issues downtown.”
According to the Sola Salon Studios website, 500 franchises exist in the United States, Canada and Brazil. It offers a free SolaPro app and a proprietary SolaGenius app to guide professionals and streamline their business.
“We searched for months for the right location in Missoula,” she said, “and after finding our current site, we spent this past summer converting it.”
Katz’s late husband, Bob Liston, owned Budget Tapes and Records in Helena. In the late 1970s, the White House honored him as Montana’s Small Businessperson of the Year, said Katz.
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