MOUNT VERNON – Hannah Wright and Heather Bullock are longtime family friends.
“I’ve known her since before she was born…” said Bullock, who is best friends with Wright’s aunt. “She’s like my niece.”
But their bond runs deeper than that. Ever since Wright was little, she and Bullock have always been connected through the art of hair care.
After all, it was Bullock who gave Wright her first set of blonde highlights at the age of 10.
“I was in fifth grade,” Wright recalled last week. She grinned: “I remember I wanted a perm and she told me no.”
Bullock, sitting across from her, let out a hearty laugh.
“Don’t put that in the paper!” she said.
Now, 17 years later, hair has brought Wright and Bullock together again. On Jan. 6, they opened their own salon together in downtown Mount Vernon.
Mane Haven Salon, located at 100 S. Main St., sits on the southeast corner of South Main Street and Vine Street. It’s across from the Woodward Opera House and one block down from Public Square.
While Bullock and Wright own the salon, they function as independent stylists. They each have keys, along with the shop’s nail tech, and work by appointment only. They plan to eventually hire a stylist who is willing to take walk-in appointments, in order to build their clientele.
“We are so booked, we can still take some people, it’s just a few weeks out,” Bullock explained. “But we really want somebody that needs people because being down here is so great – like we said, people just walk in and want to make appointments.”
It’s a good problem to have. Not just the exposure of working on South Main Street, but the idea that Bullock and Wright already have clients scheduled weeks in advance.
It took years of work to get to that point.
The opportunity of a lifetime
The path to the cozy little corner space in downtown Mount Vernon had its twists and turns for Bullock and Wright.
Both are from Mount Vernon. Bullock graduated from the Knox County Career Center in 1993 with a degree in cosmetology. She went on to work at Charles Penzone's Salon in Dublin for three years before returning to her hometown. Bullock worked at Head To Toe Salon for 14 years, then moved to Ashayla’s, formerly located on Coshocton Avenue.
That’s where she joined forces with Wright.
Wright, a 2011 Mount Vernon High School graduate, had just received her diploma from Ohio State University’s cosmetology school in 2013. She worked at Ashayla’s right out of college, and the salon owners allowed her to work as a receptionist in order to build her clientele. She was able to booth-rent soon after, which is rare for a young stylist.
“They really helped me get a little push with the receptionist job, because I was there all the time, so it was nice to be in there all the time and build my clientele,” Wright explained. “Because usually people don’t start off booth-renting right away, because you pay booth rent and if you don’t have clients, then you don’t have money to pay booth rent. So she helped me, in that case.”
When another salon bought Ashayla’s in November 2018, things changed for Bullock and Wright. The new salon brought in its stylists, which made the space more crowded.
“It was about 30 girls working together,” Wright recalled.
At first, Wright was fine with it.
“It was fun,” she said, “working with that many people.”
But it ultimately became too much. When the salon expanded, Bullock and Wright felt it lost its intimate feel.
“Working in that big environment can be a little overwhelming,” Wright said.
“And our clients preferred it back when it was more homey and personable,” Bullock added. “So we just wanted to create that all over again in a smaller space.”
Wright and Bullock began thinking of ways to get back to what they had before. After leaving their previous employer, they began looking for spaces to recreate that intimate environment. When they found the corner spot at 100 S. Main St., they fell in love.
“I think we can both agree that we’ve always wanted to own our own salon, at some point. And when we saw this space, I think we just looked in here and it’s like we just saw our vision right away,” Wright said. “And with it being downtown, it was just a bonus.”
A complete makeover
According to Bullock, the first-floor space at 100 S. Main St. had been vacant for several decades before they bought it.
It was formerly a Merle Norman Salon, she said, but hadn’t housed a business since the 80s or 90s. It had been used off-and-on as a political meeting space, but nothing more.
“It’s been vacant for quite a long time,” she said with a smile.
When Bullock and Wright acquired the property, elements of the former salon still filled the interior. The front portion of the salon had old, brown carpet, while the back had yellowing tile. The stylist stations, bulky and outdated, were still embedded into the walls. The space was dim and dreary.
“We have redone everything,” Bullock said with a laugh.
And she means it. From the floor to the ceiling, Bullock and Wright commissioned a complete makeover of the space.
The floors are now snap-in vinyl. The walls are freshly painted white, and the ceiling boasts new lighting. The old stylist stations were ripped out and replaced by camel-brown shampoo bowls and chairs, noticeably different than the traditional black. They were imported from Australia, Wright said, and they blend well with the natural greenery that fills the salon.
The space itself exudes a sense of calm – which is exactly what Bullock and Wright envisioned when they wanted to start their own salon.
“It’s just very earthy,” Wright said. “We want you to walk in and just feel calm.”
Getting back to their roots
Sitting in their newly renovated space last Friday, Bullock and Wright beamed about the location.
“We love the corner spot…” Bullock said.
“Right on the edge,” Wright added.
When they saw the property was available last year, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
“I think from the beginning, we noticed downtown was starting to come alive and we just kind of wanted to be a part of the atmosphere,” Bullock said. “I see big things coming down here.”
The traffic since opening day has proved her right. Even though the salon’s front-facing display case remains empty – it will soon house the salon’s sign, phone number, hair care products and seasonal items, Wright said – people have already stopped in to meet the new business owners.
“Even people we don’t know have stopped in and are trying to get appointments,” Bullock said.
“It’s really been nice, seeing how much support even random people – like walking down the street, who just come in and want to look inside,” Wright added. “It’s really nice.”
The salon offers hair and nail services, and it sells skin care products. Mane Haven also takes pre-wedding appointments.
While there are several salons downtown, Bullock and Wright believe Mane Haven’s intimate atmosphere will set it apart.
“As far as Main Street… there wasn’t anything like this,” Bullock said.
Just a week into their new endeavor, Bullock and Wright seemed reenergized by the opportunity to get back to their roots – to recreate the environment they shared seven years ago, when they began working together.
Both got into the hair care industry because it gave them the opportunity to build relationships with their clients. Mane Haven will allow them to continue that mission.
“I think that we want people to see that it doesn’t have to be all commercialized – it can be homey,” Wright said of the salon business.
“We missed the part where our clients used to talk to each other and the nail tech would talk to my clients, and they knew each other...” Bullock added. “We’re back to that comfy feel. We want our clients to be happy and know that they can come in here and just feel at-home.”