Like Heaven on Earth
|by Fran Joyce, September 2013|
Softly lit chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. The walls are dark…rich purple wraps around the room and meets seamlessly with a cozy blue and green. I immediately notice the black trim and comfy black chairs. The look is clean, contemporary, and surprisingly restful. This is a place where I can be pampered. I feel miles away from the traffic on Greentree Road, deadlines, and my uncut lawn.
Have I really found Heaven on Earth? Ruth Gillen, the owner/operator of Heaven on Earth Salon and her staff are committed to making me feel as if I have.
I start my visit with Amanda, a stylist and nail technician, who is also Gillen’s niece. We talk as she skillfully shapes, conditions, and polishes my mistreated nails.
“I started working for Ruth about twelve years ago as a receptionist,” she tells me. “I never really considered cosmetology as a career, but as I spent time at the salon, I grew to respect Ruth as a business women and a stylist. Her passion for her work is contagious. She has taught me everything I know about dealing with clients and running a successful business. Her guidance has allowed me to turn a job into a career. The first three months of Cosmetology School were a breeze because of my experience at the salon.”
As Amanda gently massages my hands, I close my eyes and fully appreciate the salon’s moniker.
“Ruth has raised four children while owning and operating her own business. I want to have the flexibility to be a stay at home mom when I have children, but I also want the option to return to work. Ruth has shown me that it’s possible. We always joked that someday I would take over the salon for her. Now, it’s one of my goals.”
I watch as Gillen puts the finishing touches on her client’s hair. Soon, she comes over, and we are introduced. She is a petite brunette with a winning smile, who exudes both confidence and serenity. This is a woman who enjoys her work, and it shows. She asks about my manicure, and she gives Amanda a quick word of praise for a job well done.
We have a limited time to talk between customers, but our conversation never feels rushed.
“I wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ growing up, so I never expected to own a salon,” she admits. “My mother got her hair done every week. When I was thirteen, she came home with this incredible bee-hive hairstyle. I was fascinated with the intricacy of it, and I never looked at hair the same way again.”
“I apprenticed at Stephen’s Hair Salon when I was sixteen. At seventeen, I started cosmetology school, got my license, and went to work at Stephens. I got married and had four kids, When I was going through my divorce, I realized that I had to do something more to support my family.”
“I decided to open a salon. I called it The Comfort Zone; it was located in a former funeral home in Bridgeville. I went in with Barbara Hollis, a nail technician, and Bobbie White, a massage therapist; I did hair. We acted as sole proprietors sharing a common space. After the first year, I assumed complete ownership. Eventually, I changed the name to Heaven on Earth Day Spa. We offered yoga, hair care, facials, massages, seaweed wraps, manicures and pedicures, waxing, and tanning. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused severe flooding in the area, and our building was severely damaged.”
“I moved my business to Anthony Street in Carnegie keeping the same name. Instead of this becoming our permanent home, Wright Pontiac bought out the entire block, and we had to move again. We only had thirty days to find a new location and move. I found a spot on Washington Avenue in Carnegie, but this move caused me to start re-evaluating the business. I decided that my real passion was hair, and that’s what I wanted to focus on at the salon. I still wanted to provide a spa like experience, but I didn’t want to manage so many different services.”
“I needed a different layout for this type of salon, so I started looking for the ideal space. I found it here in Scott Towne Center. I had a vision of what I wanted, and I’m so thrilled with how it has turned out.”
“We still offer many spa services, and there are seven people working here. I do hair and waxing. Gió is our only male stylist. He does hair and waxing along with Rebekah and Nicole. Jamie does hair, waxing, and eye lash extensions. Amanda, does hair, waxing, nails, and she over sees most of our daily operations. Nancy handles Reflexology. We’ve been here for about a year, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Despite the ups and downs of business ownership and being a single parent, Gillen’s children have thrived. Her oldest daughter, a Duquesne University graduate, is now a chiropractor, married and expecting her first child. Her oldest son, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, is a working actor in New York. She also has a son who makes custom cabinetry at Allegheny Mill Works, and a son playing Lacrosse at Seton-LaSalle.
It might sound like mission accomplished for Ruth Gillen, but as much as she is enjoying her success she is committed to improving the salon experience for her clients and co-workers.
“ Our “bread and butter” is no longer the wash and set weekly customer. Now we see our clients every four to six weeks. We have to offer something at our salon that they can’t get elsewhere. I use only the finest organic products available, and I stress continuing education, so we all stay current about styles and safe salon practices. We also educate our clients about trends and products.”
Gillen is pretty confident that she is on the right track with keeping clients happy. “My clients now span three generations!”
Heaven on Earth Salon offers salon packages for Homecoming, Proms, and weddings. To see a full list of salon services, check out their new FACEBOOK page www.facebook.com/heavenonearthsalon and website www.heavenonearth-dayspa.com. Located at 2101 Greentree Road in the Scott Towne Center, you can call 412-276-5290 for more information or an appointment.