Name: Lisa Breton

Age: 53

Title: Owner

Company: Studio 61, Waterville

About: A full-service hair and nail salon

Website: www.facebook.com/Studio-61-Hair-Skin-Salon

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

The snow. I have limited parking space, and they can push the snow only so far. I have run out of space. It just been this year.

I have a wonderful neighbor, Dr. (George) Manter, and he allows all of us to park in his parking lot on Fridays and Saturdays.

I do have someone to push the snow, but the one time I needed him this year, he had a family emergency and he couldn’t do it.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

My father-in-law (Jean Paul Breton) always said to me, you should have your own salon. Unfortunately, he never got to see me do it, but he was the driving force in me doing this and having others work with me.

My parents have always said, ‘Reach for the stars,’ and have had a big influence in my life. My mother is Noelline Belanger and my father is Lawrence Belanger.

How do you foster creativity in yourself or you staff?

One of the things I tell my staff is that everyone has things going on in life, but the person that’s in your chair at the time, you give them 100 percent of your attention, and when you have problem, you check it at the door.

I am constantly taking classes, and always trying to learn the newest things, and the newest, upcoming styles and the newest product. That’s the most important thing in the business I am in, to stay up with the fashion and the styles and be creative and try different things. And I think that’s why I am as successful as I am. I try keep up on the times, if you will, if you know what I mean.

What’s your biggest fear?

My concern is thinking about what to do when I retire. I’m at that age. How do I get to that point? I love what I do, but I can’t do this in my 70s and 80s. In this profession, when do you start to let go? I have other people rely on me for jobs. Do I continue doing what I do behind the scenes? Do I sell the business? I worry about what’s going to happen when I can no longer do what I do. I love it so much, but I am getting up there in age, and I will not be able to do this for another 31 years as I have been. It’s a very hard job on your back and on your legs. But I love my job, I love my people and my girls.

My husband is starting to think about retirement. I am so fortunate to have what I have, but what do I do?

One of the girls has worked with me for 31 years. Every salon I have been in, she has worked with me. Other hairdressers call me and ask me, ‘What is your secret?’ They are not my employees, they are my family. I treat them like I want to be treated. They don’t work for me, they work with me.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

My business partner had to move to Florida very abruptly (three years ago). She had a tragedy in her family and I had to figure out what to do at that point. She had to be with her family, and I understood that 100 percent, wholeheartedly. I was more concerned about the girls who worked (at the salon) and needed jobs and loved where they worked. And if I didn’t take a hold of reins and take on this business by myself — with my husband (Donald Breton), I have to say, he was a big, big help in this whole situation — that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. At this stage in my life, I didn’t know I would have to be in debt, but I did what I had to do to keep my business and keep my girls. I don’t regret it one bit.

We bought the salon July 7, 1998, that’s when we signed all the papers and we opened up Aug. 5.

The long part of Silver Street where I am was residential at that time. It was actually the first building we looked at. We did look at other places after, but the minute I saw it I went home and drew up blueprints and showed my husband how I wanted it done. He does contracting work. Once I did that, I was sold on the building. There was already a parking lot there. There were a lot of things that worked in its favor, mostly location. Before I bought the building, I went to the zoning officer to ask if you can put a business in there. He said yes but it would have to go to the Planning Board.

The owner, he was so sweet, he let us in (before we signed the papers) and we started painting and tearing down the walls. We started right off because (the city official) told me we could have a salon in a residential area. And I believed him, because right next door to me was Affiliated Realtor, and on the other side of me was Dr. Manter, and behind me was Firestone (tire store). He said we just had to go to the Planning Board and tell them what we wanted to do. I was shocked when they denied us. We were both going to stand to lose quite a bit of money that we had put down if we didn’t get approved. That was my biggest fear, that we would be rejected.

I went to the mayor (Ruth Joseph) the next day, and told her she needed to tell me what to do to put a salon there.

Having the mayor behind me made me feel comfortable doing it.

Small hairdressers were in the same category as laundromats and shoe shine and shoe repair shops. Because we were a service we were in the same category (and that wasn’t allowed).

We went to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, back and forth, back and forth and back and forth.

One of the things that was kind of an issue was parking, with the amount of people I was going to have working there. There was a kind of an addition on the back of the building that we had to take off. It gave us four more parking spots. If it was going to get approved, we had to take that off. So we had to go the Planning Board and let them know and go to the Zoning Board, back and forth.

I got a few gray hairs because of that.

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