Cathie Anderson

East Sacramento’s Colour Bar will open second salon in midtown

Lorena Martinez said she used to tell her husband, Alfonso Martinez, why his ideas wouldn’t work, but she learned that growth would come if she gave his marketing ideas a try.
Lorena Martinez said she used to tell her husband, Alfonso Martinez, why his ideas wouldn’t work, but she learned that growth would come if she gave his marketing ideas a try.

Alfonso and Lorena Martinez plan to expand their East Sacramento-based business, The Colour Bar hair salon, into a second location in midtown by mid-April.

The couple will be taking over the site that was once home to Michael Mason Salon, 2314 K St. Their East Sacramento salon is in the shopping center at 5539 H St. Lorena Martinez left a career in accounting nearly six years ago to pursue her love of hairstyling. Her husband had worked for years in the computer engineering field, but after being laid off in November, he has taken a more active role in their business. The expansion was his idea.

The couple’s landlord in East Sac had notified them that their rent was going to increase by 50 percent, and Lorena Martinez was concerned about how that would affect the salon’s bottom line.

So, upon the advice of their real-estate agent, the Martinezes started looking around for other locations. They ended up renewing their lease for five years, Lorena Martinez said, and raised their prices to offset the rent increase. In the process, however, Alfonso Martinez made an unexpected suggestion.

“My husband came across a Craigslist ad that Michael Mason Salon was selling,” Lorena Martinez said. “He took a screen-shot of the ad and texted it to me. I replied, ‘NO! Let’s wait.’… it was a little scary for me to think, ‘OK, I’m going to open another salon and double my staff. You’re nuts.’ 

After some thought, however, Lorena Martinez realized that she was speaking out fear. It was a tendency she had fought ever since she went into business. In the beginning, when her husband would make suggestions, she said, she would respond with reasons why they wouldn’t work.

“That happens to a lot of small business owners,” she said. “We think, ‘This is our idea. This is how we envisioned it.’ But we also have to adapt. … I knew I had to let go.”

They crunched the numbers with their accountant, then decided to buy the equipment from Michael Mason Salon and sign a new lease for the space where stylists Mark Mason and Michael Kastan ran a salon for 17 years. The two men no longer wanted to run a business, Mason told me. Instead, they will be leasing booth space at the Face & Body Emporium at 5050 Folsom Blvd.

Lorena Martinez said her husband handled all negotiations and is now working with contractors on remodeling. Experience has taught her, she said, to trust him and the ideas he brings to the table.

“Finally, I said, ‘OK, let’s try this idea or that idea. If it doesn’t work, let’s move on,’ ” she said. “We didn’t say no until we tried it. From that came a lot of good ideas for marketing and a lot of good business practices.”

Among them: They bought small containers, filled them with shampoo and conditioner, and gave them as free samples to clients. The couple also used raffle tickets as another form of marketing. When clients book an appointment or buy a product, they receive a raffle ticket for a free product or service.

When clients like how a product works or get compliments on a new haircut, the Martinezes said, they are more likely to want the service or product again and are more willing to pay for it.

Alfonso Martinez also increased the number of photos on The Colour Bar’s Yelp page and launched advertising campaigns at the online site. People go to Yelp when they’re ready to buy, he said, and photos help them evaluate a service.

At many salons, stylists operate as independent contractors who rent booth spaces, the Martinezes said, but from the beginning, Lorena Martinez knew she wanted to set the standard for quality service for stylists at her salon and offer all clients a line of products she believed in. So, she said, her two receptionists and five stylists are employees. She pays a commission on sales of products and services, she said, and if training or meetings are required, she pays an hourly rate.

The Martinezes then trained their staff in the key elements of a quality salon experience. When Lorena Martinez took three months off to care for the couple’s newborn son last year, she left all her clients in the hands of her staff.

“It’s rare that a hairstylist takes three months off to go and have a baby,” Lorena Martinez said. “You can lose your clients in those three months. They go to other stylists, and then they’re like, ‘OK, I’ll just stay here.’ 

When Martinez returned to work, she said, she told her clients that if they enjoyed the experience with the other stylist, they should feel free to remain with that person.

“Some of them did, and it freed up my schedule to take new clients,” she said. “Those stylists weren’t as booked up as I was. It was still income for me, and I still get to catch up with my clients. They’re still part of The Colour Bar.”

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee