Linda Nichols and her Cornelius Hair Workshop will celebrate their 30th anniversary on Nov. 13, and they can tell you a thing or two about customer loyalty.
At the hair styling and nail salon on North Main Street, many repeat customers recognize the familiar faces in the other booths, but perhaps none have been more faithful than 78-year-old Jeanette Cross of Huntersville and her family.
It started in 1981, when Cross' previous hairdresser walked out on her halfway through an appointment to deal with a family matter. "Linda took over and did a wonderful job on my hair. Even though she was just out of beauty school, I found her totally professional and very thoughtful."
Later, her two sons, Tommy, now 54, and Rusty, 56, became regular customers. When her mom moved in with her, she also went to the shop, and now the latest to use their services is her granddaughter, Allie, 23. "She lives up in the mountains but actually comes down here to get her hair done," said Jeanette Cross.
Establishing loyalty such as this takes a lot of hard work, said Nichols, 60, a lifelong Cornelius resident. "You have to provide good service in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. People have to feel comfortable or they won't come back. The quality of the staff is very important, also, in a business like ours."
The workshop has been located in a 68-year-old renovated house on the east side of North Main Street since 1994. Before that, they rented space on West Catawba Avenue, and then across the street on Main Street.
But Nichols grew tired of renting and jumped at the chance to buy and renovate the vintage 1943 home when it became available. She's seen many competing hair salons come and go, crediting her success and longevity to the support she has received from her customers, her co-workers and her family.
"Without the support of my husband, Bob, and my family, it would have been much more difficult to start and maintain the business."
Currently the Hair Workshop employs a staff of five stylists and two nail technicians, most of whom have been with the salon for 15 to 20 years.
What's ahead for Nichols and the Workshop? Well, for one thing, they have room for one more stylist.
Beyond that, she expects more of the same for the next few years, then possibly an ownership change. For now, she hasn't lost the drive to succeed. "You have to have a passion for the work you do. ... I've been doing this for over three decades and still love the challenge."