Hair stylists can manage their own careers with complete flexibility at Workstation, West Hartford’s newest co-working space.
By Ronni Newton
A space in West Hartford Center that was formerly home to several gym, has been completely transformed into a concept that’s the first of its kind in the Hartford area – perhaps even in the region.
Workstation for Hair (aka Workstation WeHa) officially opens Tuesday at 977R Farmington Ave., in the parking lot bordered by LaSalle Road, Farmington Avenue, and South Main Street.
A cruiser bike decorated with white lights greets guests as they enter the roughly 2,400 square foot space. The floors are now covered with gray wood plank ceramic tile, the furnishings are distressed wood, doors are chalkboards, and trendy chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
It’s fun, funky, and modern, and at the same time welcoming and embracing to hair stylists who now have the opportunity to maintain their independence while enjoying the positive aspects of belonging to a community that offers high quality products and education.
Workstation’s customers are actually the stylists, said Jen LaChapelle, longtime owner of The Lift Salon in Massachusetts who has partnered with Kim Rodrigo and Wendy Pereira to establish Workstation.
“They already give great customer service,” LaChapelle said. “But the industry is changing, and this has the best attributes of the community model and the rental model.”
The co-working model means that stylists have ultimate flexibility – and can choose to rent space at Workstation for a few hours (four is the minimum), a day, a week, a month, a year, or even longer. They can choose to be in the community area, or a more private single or double suite space, and switch back and forth as desired.
There is an app for managing appointments, and a professional greeter to welcome everyone.
Customers are charged based on an individual stylist’s own pricing structure.
Advantages to being part of Workstation include access to six color lines in the “Color Store,” and the ability to use their “points” from product purchases to contribute to education. Color lines include Redken, Loreal Professional, Lanza, Matrix, Pravana, Pulp Riot, and Goldwell.
There’s also a fresh food market on site, where customers can find healthy food and drink to enjoy during their appointments. There’s a unique self-checkout system that customers use at the market. Instead of just piles of old magazines, there’s Jenga and other games that customers can play while the color is doing its magic on their hair.
“We’ve been in the industry. We’ve seen everything,” said LaChapelle, who has been a stylist since 1989. She and her partners have kept up with trends, and changes in the industry, which often begin in California.
“What’s in LA is coming here,” LaChapelle said, but she said that the exact model that she, Rodrigo, and Pereira have created hasn’t even happened in LA yet, but rather combines bits and pieces of what they have seen and think is the best from other similar models.
LaChapelle said that access to education is a major advantage of affiliating with Workstation, and all of their stylists can participate in classes, many at no extra charge. There are also “Insta-famous” educators who will be visiting for specialized programming.
Even before the official opening, they recently hosted a class on Balayage, which is one of the hottest trends in hair coloring to hit the area.
The term “Balayage” is “French for highlights,” LaChapelle said. It may be new to many area stylists, she said, but she’s been doing it for eight years.
“We are excited to show all of the stylists in the area how to do it – and even how to say it,” she said.
“We want to be known as an education hub, to invite all stylists,” said LaChapelle. And that extends even to area stylists who are not affiliated with Workstation.
“There are 120 salons in the area, and they can get an amazing education right in their backyard,” said Rodrigo. It’s a way to unite the industry in West Hartford, she said.
“It will help the industry rise with the tide,” said LaChapelle.
In addition to the sinks, chairs, suites, and fresh market, Workstation also has an “Instagram” area. Social media marketing is such an important part of the business today, LaChapelle said. “We help stylists build their audience. That’s how many people find stylists.” Workstation WeHa can also be found on Instagram at @WorkstationWeHa.
LaChapelle said she knows the co-working concept isn’t for everyone. “But it fills a void. It’s a good, healthy culture, community, and education. People are independent, yet together.”
There are 18 chairs available, and a large number of stylists signed up in advance of the opening. They run the gamut from those with 40 years of background in the industry to some with only three years of experience.
Workstatio will be open Tuesday through Saturday, but LaChapelle said they are open to expanding that if the demand is there.
For those who don’t have a dedicated stylist, Workstation will also take walk-ins.
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