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A mobile salon in Australia shares hope and joy

Lockdown has brought so much pain, along with financial and business difficulties; at the same time it has been lovely to see empowering initiatives taking place and to hear moving stories from hairdressers around the world. So many of you are indeed coping, adjusting, proposing, and even shining – simply doing you bit for your community. One particular story we love comes from Australia! We’re enchanted by a couple of hairdressers who created their own mobile salon and have been touring to reach clients during the Pandemic.

Inside the Duchess

Karen & Stuart Cloake own Sanctuary Salon & Spa in New South Wales, Australia. In the past 12 months, they have embarked on a road trip with their van-salon ‘Duchess’. Here they share their experiences by giving us a peek into the diary they keep. Let’s hear it from them:

How it started: Karen and Stuart

”A year ago as the pandemic raged we closed our salon doors for a month. We spent hours researching and discussing how we could maintain or change our business to keep up with the unique situation that hairdressing in Australia presented us with. Along with supermarkets, chemists, bakers and many retailers, we were among the businesses that were allowed to keep trading. In a bizarre twist, you were not allowed to socialise with your elderly mother in your home, but you could spend as much as you wanted with her in the salon if she needed her hair doing. We realised early on that being a Border community (Albury NSW, Wodonga VIC) we would be faced with different rules and travel restrictions on either side. Later in 2020 local politicians came together from both states to develop the ‘Border Bubble’ community. We still have different rules but we were allowed to travel principally for work through strict Border checkpoints manned by the police or defence forces from one state to another. It quickly became apparent that if we could mobilise our business we might be able to help service clients who were cut off from us, and develop a plan to also help our more vulnerable customers who lived greater distances from us in years to come.

“We had always been intrigued by a mobile business. We had looked at vans, trucks and motor-homes in the past and given the challenges that power and plumbing presented, we came to the conclusion that a motor-home conversion was going to be the most feasible for our limited budget. So having committed to the concept we jumped online to find a suitable vehicle. BINGO! The layout of the design and mechanical state of the feisty Fiat Ducato made it a winner. Having put down a deposit we spent four intense days driving up to far North of our state to inspect, purchase and drive our project back down to Albury. The ‘Duchess’ as she was named was moved to a large shed on a property belonging to mechanically minded chums in the tranquil Kiewa Valley. There we began removing the existing bed and dining section and set about levelling the floor and trying to find a wash basin unit that would fit within the slim doorway. The original interior décor was very drab so we removed, repainted  and came up with a wallpaper design which we had printed in metre squares and hung. The paper was fun and a lot of work, but nothing was as difficult as installing the wash basin.”

A day to remember

When the van became a mini functional hair salon, it was ready to hit the road and the couple set off for Victoria, Australia. Stuart describes one of their most beautiful and moving moments there:

”Here we are 100 kilometres from our home base across the border in the state of Victoria, doing three hair appointments on a rural property outside of Benalla; surrounded by gum trees. We have plugged into water and power on our left and behind us the river winds its way nurturing the properties it banks onto. We are keeping a long term promise of seeing a lady in her 90’s, Jill. She has been a client of ours in the traditional salon space for over 15 years, however she no longer drives so we had arranged to visit her and a couple of other clients from the surrounding area to make a morning of it. Over the past year we have all come to realise what a treasured connection human interaction is. Time spent together is no longer taken for granted. Finally it’s Jill’s turn in the chair. Being a horse rider she can mount the steeper steps of the vehicle without too much trouble, (we are planning to put in a ramp) she has not had a haircut for some time, just like our other guests she loves the convenience of someone coming to see her and the novelty of the situation is quite a treat. Jill loves the massage function on the wash lounge and being in our company. The feeling is powerful and mutual.

“The couple who hosted the morning have now laid on a very generous socially distanced lunch, so it will be a few more hours until we head back to reality and the challenges of running a business during the Pandemic.

How lovely! How can you not be touched by stories like this one? Bravo, Karen and Stuart, keep up the good work and making us all proud! If you’ve been affected by reading the experience of two hairdressers literally on the other side of the World, then let us know. Maybe you’d like to share your story? Contact us on info@ihaa.co.uk

For more of the latest hairdressing news, click HERE.

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