Going a Cut Above with Sola Salon Studios

The managing directors of Sola Salon Studios “can’t open new locations fast enough.” So says Austin Campbell, who holds the franchise rights to Sola Salon Studios in San Diego. Scott Ditsworth, Austin’s sometimes business partner and the owner of Los Angeles and Detroit-area franchises added, “We build with entrepreneurial cosmetologist in mind and provide very high-end finishes.”

Sola’s concept of a franchised salon with individual, rentable suites has exploded, with 16 locations now open and occupied just in San Diego and two more in process.

Such success has prompted competitors into creating similar franchise and chain concepts. But one key to staying ahead, says Austin, is that once they identify a new space, “Marissa has it handled. She’s the QB of the situation.”

Austin is referring to FS Design Group Designer Marissa Clow, NCIDQ, CID, who oversees site planning, design and permitting for Sola Salons in San Diego and other locations up and down California. We’ve worked on at least 20 of their salons thus far.

“Marissa basically spearheads the entire process,” said Scott. “FS Design Group is super professional and efficient.”

For many of the Sola Salon Studios, our firm starts with a template design from the company’s headquarters office and customizes it for the unique spaces. We also work with our clients’ MEP engineer to coordinate plans and efforts. For a new Sola Salon in San Jose, we’re creating a design concept from scratch.

Even customizing an existing concept design can be a fun challenge. Austin and Scott use office buildings, shopping centers, malls and mixed-use developments for their salons. This variety of space can present a range of unique tenant improvement situations.

When working with Austin or Scott, we often evaluate spaces before they even sign a lease to make sure customizing the space will be possible within their budget. This field verification is critical to ensuring the design intent in maintained during construction.

For the San Jose salon location, we’re combining three retail spaces, each separated with a 3-hour fire wall. Municipal codes require that the 3-hour rating stays in place between the spaces, so we’re identifying and specifying interior doors that are cool enough to pass muster with hair artists but can keep that fire rating intact.

We’ve also grappled with changing the occupancy type for a building to permit the salon, with myriad site work issues and with meeting differing building codes from city to city.

While it may sound mind-boggling, the geographic diversity is something we appreciate.

Working with Sola Salon Studios requires us to navigate and understand the requirements of many different municipalities throughout the state and to build relationships with each.

Same goes for the building types, as the projects calls for familiarity with the requirements of shopping center, mall and mixed-use spaces as well.

Austin told us, “When we tried to find an architect, many didn’t want it because they couldn’t do the initial design. FS Design Group was the opposite. They said let’s do this and recognized the potential business.”

He’s not wrong, but we also recognized the opportunity to work with great people and to expand our portfolio. Turns out, this amazing relationship even opened up an opportunity for our firm to help them develop a new design template.

We have to credit our friend Herb at Lockrul Construction, who recommended us to Austin. And it turns out that Scott knew about us from previous research he had done when considering an interior designer for a former business enterprise. We’re proud of the strong and diverse relationships we’ve built throughout our industry to generate referrals and recognition like this.

“FS Design Group is a down-to-earth architectural firm that works happily with other parties involved,” Austin told us, and we’re glad that shines through. We’re all about the team effort. It’s been our experience that developing a strong team with mutual respect is the best approach for creating remarkable projects.

And speaking of remarkable, Austin and Scott have had so much success that they now have property owners courting them to open Sola Salon Studios at their projects.

While all hair salons were hit hard by pandemic shutdowns, Sola Salons now has the highest occupancy the company has ever had.

“Our business model is built for a COVID-19 world,” Austin said. “We sell ‘you can control your own environment’ – meaning décor, safety, music, rules and more. The real estate world is paying attention to our quick recovery. Moreover, we’re internet proof – you have to go into a salon to get a haircut.”

We couldn’t be happier to be on this journey with Austin, Scott and others at Sola Salon Studios.

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