By Shayna Wiwierski
Tucked away on the corner of Sara Avenue and Sherbrook Street in Winnipeg’s eclectic Wolseley area, Élan Hair Studio may be small in nature, but the salon is big on talent.
Located at 156 Sherbrook Street, the 1,200-square-foot salon is home to seven stylists and a lot of character. Owner Renn VanDyck opened the salon eight years ago after styling hair at Sets on Fort. He chose the West Broadway area because of its character and charm, as well as the potential to become Winnipeg’s “it” area.
“My career was always downtown, so I wanted to stay somewhat central,” says VanDyck. “I felt that Sherbrook Street had a lot of potential and would start coming up eventually. It has definitely started to do that in the past year or two. My outlook for the future of this salon and street seems quite positive.”
Located directly across from the soon-to-be-occupied multi-million-dollar Element Condos, and blocks away from the popular Stella’s Café and Eatery, Élan originally started off as half the size that it is currently. When the previous tenant beside them moved, VanDyck took over the space and tore down part of the wall, amalgamating the two areas. Four years ago VanDyck got the opportunity to buy the whole building where he leases out space to two other tenants. They recently redid the façade on the front of the building with brickwork and got rid of the esthetician area, which may become more styling stations.
Élan, which is French for “leap forward”, is in reference to fashion and design. The space is impeccably minimalistic with clean lines and a neutral colour palette. Flowers are thrown into the mix to add a pop of colour to the white, grey, and black décor. The light hardwood floors are a stark contrast to the Barcelona-style chairs and black leather couches that are home to the colour lounge which faces shelves full of Kevin Murphy and Schwarzkopf products. Three futuristic Maletti sinks positioned in front of a feature wall catch the eye, as do the black Maletti chairs on the other side of the salon, which creates juxtaposition against the grey walls. The salon’s small, but quaint waiting room features avant-garde art magazines to entice guests.
The walls are adorned with professional images of the stylists’ work, where every spring the salon works together on a photo shoot for the “Élan Spring Trend”. This past spring’s theme was “Mod Angel”.
“This work we try to do is more consumer. We do a collection that is more relatable to the clients. [For Mod Angel, we] brought a ‘60s influence into the work; we like bringing in some of the trends that we see in the fashion world into the hair. It’s more of a talking point for clients instead of pictures from magazines. It’s a team-building exercise and a point of pride for our staff.”
Pride is a current theme within Élan’s four walls. At the back there is a bookcase of trophies from the various achievements the stylists have won over the years. Last year the salon won eight awards including a Contessa, a Mirror, and six ABA awards. So far this year, the salon has won the Mirror award for Manitoba Salon Team, which they also took home in 2012.
“Its been very inspirational for all the staff; I think that’s why we have so many [Contessa entries – 15 in total] this year because we did so well. As a boss, I am coaching a few people as well, a couple people who haven’t done as much of it. I’m always trying to act as a coach for staff and encourage their ambitions,” says VanDyck. “There’s a healthy camaraderie among my staff; they help each other a lot, run ideas past each other, get each other’s opinions in what direction to go on. Not just for the Contessas, but in the salon as well.”
After eight years in business, VanDyck says that perhaps soon he will expand the space to include more room for stylists. Since he owns the building, he plans on knocking the garage down behind the salon and putting down asphalt for parking. He says that he wants to take the salon to wherever it wants to go.
“[I would like it to] become a living, breathing entity on its own. To let the salon grow, and hopefully make room for more stylists down the road. It’s always been my humble goal to be regarded as one of the top salons in the city. I don’t know if that’s the case necessarily, but you want your clientele to be thinking the world of you. If it’s growing, and my employees are happy and clients are happy, then I’m happy.”