When Shannon Dery and Jennifer Sollenne took ownership of the former Rick Garcia hair salon in Playhouse Square, they chose Salon 293 east (salon293east.com) as the new name. It’s not only informative, telling the client the address on Post Road, but the “east” conveys direction, a new one for the salon, founded in 1990.
In 2019 Justan Garcia, the late founder’s son, decided to take his career in a different direction. Dery and Sollenne had worked together for twenty-five years, as the head colorists and managers, and had always wanted to own a salon of their own. When the opportunity presented itself, says Sollenne, “It was full speed ahead. This is coming to us for a reason.”
Utilizing Dery’s eye for design, the two revamped the salon, giving it a clean, simple, beachy aesthetic. Sinks were updated, floors replaced, and walls removed or repainted using calming colors. The grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting was February 7, 2020. Yes. That year. A month and ten days later, the salon shut down. Dery describes feeling “gutted.” She explains, “We had the highest point in our career and then it was the lowest…it was ripped out from underneath us.” Sollenne says their focus on regrowing the business turned to “plastic gloves, plastic shields and disinfectants.” Appointments were shifted, reopening dates changed and bills started accumulating. The stress, the worry was constant. And, yet, they never felt their new beginning was going to end.
The banks and government stepped in. Loyal clients helped out by not only masking up and lining up curbside to collect color kits, but also by purchasing gift certificates to be used in happier times. They texted and called and, of course, wondered when the salon would open again. Sollenne notes, laughing, they did want “to get their gray hair taken care of.”
For these salon owners who color that silver hair, the pandemic proved to have a silver lining. They re-opened with restrictions in June 2020 and by October of that year opened a new spa within the salon, a current client favorite. The pandemic also brought them a stylist who had been living in Canada but moved back to her home in Connecticut. The pandemic flight from cities brought new residents to Westport and, therefore, new business. Now, all their clients, old and new, can relax and enjoy the services at Salon 293 east, says Dery, and “feel like they feel when they’re in their beautiful home.”