While some of us outgrow childhood pastimes and dreams, others nurture and grow those dreams into promising opportunities.
Such was the case with Annie Driggs, who, last November, opened her dream business, Elle Salon and Spa in Richland Township.
“I think I have always known I wanted to be in this business. As a young child, I really enjoyed doing hair and nails and making people feel good about themselves,” she says.
And so, while still in high school, she enrolled in the cosmetology program at Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center, received her state license before her high school diploma, and started working at a salon right away. She has worked at several salons since 2007, with her last employer, Shear Innocence, providing the inspiration for a venture of her own.
She says she had always dreamed of owning her own business one day, but “I never truly thought I would be able to do it.” It wasn’t until the last two years, while working at Shear Innocence, that she finally felt confident enough to strike out on her own.
She credits the owner of Shear Innocence, Jamie Hoffman, for inspiring her, and her co-workers for their support and encouragement. “They were all very supportive which was a huge blessing.
“I also wanted to show my children (Karson, 10, and Aria, 3) you can really do anything you want to in life.
“Figure out what you want to do and make it happen!”
Through one of her clients, Chelsea Mihalko, Driggs found a suitable suite in a building owned by the Mihalko family.
Driggs and her boyfriend, Jake Rodgers, a full-time coal miner, spent all their evenings and weekends in October on renovations, turning the 1900-square-foot area into an elegant, welcoming and well-designed salon.
“The Mihalkos were great to work with and allowed us to do whatever we needed,” Driggs says.
On November 2nd, 2020, the store opened for its first day of business.
How did she decide on the name of the store? “I honestly don’t know why that name came to mind! I was brainstorming and writing down different names. I knew I wanted it to be short and simple. Elle just stuck.”
Family and friends suggested that the name of the salon may have come from a part of her full name, Angelica, to which she responds, “Maybe subconsciously?”
For the moment, Driggs has just one employee, Lizz Lischerelli, a 15-year veteran in the business. Driggs is quick to commend Lischerelli for her work. “She puts her heart into every client she sees and it really shows.”
Additional stations are available to accommodate more employees, Driggs says. However, she’s going slow on the hiring process to make sure the salon is growing and able to support a bigger staff. “But we are looking,” she stresses.
Asked what sets Elle Salon and Spa apart, Driggs says, “The atmosphere at the salon is really important to me. I want clients and employees to feel comfortable when they walk in and free to be themselves. I think we are a good mix of a professional and a casual salon environment.”
As for the competition, Driggs says she doesn’t consider herself in competition with other salons and stylists.
“They all have their own qualities and traits that set them apart from others. I have a lot of respect for them. It’s important to support one another, especially in times like these. And we can learn so much from one another.”
Learning and education are words that emerge frequently in a conversation with Driggs.
She points out that “the industry is constantly changing and evolving” and stylists and salons need to keep abreast of prevailing science, research and trends to provide knowledgeable and professional service.
“The pandemic has pushed us to change how we learn,” she says. “Almost everything is available online for professionals.”
Besides offering in-store services for hair, nails, eyelashes and eyebrows, Elle Salon and Spa also accommodates wedding parties (in salon or on site), and children’s birthday parties.
Driggs also has a special for readers. “If a new client brings in the issue of Johnstown Magazine with our article, we’ll give them 10% off their service,” she says.
Elle Salon and Spa is located at 136 Jaycee Drive, Suite 30 and can be reached through Facebook or by calling (814) 467-4373.