By Shayna Wiwierski
Photos by Elise Nadeau
“All it takes is one crazy hooligan to open up beside the Woodbine [Hotel] and be like ‘I’m going to have the best salon in Winnipeg’,” says Kitty Bernes, owner of Berns and Black Salon and Spa.
When you step into Berns and Black you are transported back to 1920s art deco, where the simple black-and-white themed salon exudes the ambiance of the time of the building’s heritage. The salon is located in The Baker Block where Birt Saddlery, an established retail outlet of western clothing and leather goods, occupied the space from 1965 to 1995. Prior to that, the three-storey building (built in 1901) was home to a number of companies including doctors, dentists, real estate agents, lawyers, a music store, jewelry store, and most recently, a book store.
By the time Bernes, along with her business partner Elynore Kendryna (owner of Cha Cha Palace and Angles Hair Design – soon to be Berns and Black’s second location on Lilac Street), took over the space, there was a lot of work to be done.
“It looked like a condemned crackhouse call centre,” says Bernes who has been a licensed hairstylist for the past 11 years. “Elynore had people in here and knowing who she knows, she had it completely gutted and re-done.”
$300,000 later, Berns and Black (named after Bernes – with a dropped “e” – and Kendryna’s great- grandmother’s last name) opened, creating the city’s first eco-friendly hair salon.
And eco-friendly they are, indeed. They only use products that do not have parabens including Schwarzkopf, Kevin Murphy, Spa Ritual, Yum Yum, and Spa Organics.
“We have a scientist that lets us access a database to see what the true ingredients are in products. We also recycle everything.”
Recycling is a huge theme within the salon’s walls. Most of the furniture, aside from the salon chairs and esthetician beds, are vintage pieces that have been found at antique stores in the Exchange District. The salon’s signature vintage couches were pieces that Kendryna found and then had refurbished.
“They were white and blue floral; they were so ugly that I was like ‘they’re perfect’,” says Bernes.
The couches, and matching chairs, are now painted black with plush shimmery noir upholstery that fits the ambiance of the creative space and juxtapositions with the sleek white walls, which are beautifully filled with professional photos of the stylists’ work.
The gender-neutral black-and-white themed space is also home to a number of animal artifacts, once again connecting the room to nature. Cabin-esque moose and elk heads are seen in a variety of rooms, as well as tree wall decals, which subconsciously remind clients of the salon’s naturalistic emphasis.
“It is a non-cheesy way of saying that we are interested in the environment, without being lame.”
Every nook and cranny of Berns and Black bears some significance to the bigger picture, whether it’s a tribute to the building’s heritage or one to Mother Nature. As for Bernes’ favourite part?
“I like the open, extravagant calmness of the whole place.”
Location: 468 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Opened: May 2009
Size: 2,500 square feet
Staff Breakdown: 11 stylists, three apprentices, five front-desk staff, two estheticians