Sunday, November 18, 2007

The best Charleston firms (chapter one)

I've been meaning for a while to intersperse a list of my favorite Charleston firms with my regular blogs. (This assumes, of course, that I actually write some regular blogs, a challenge lately since business is still--happily--booming! I know, excuses... )

Rather than put it off any longer, I'm going to take the plunge and name my first favorite firm. I should note that the favorite firms won't be listed in any particular order.

It will be no surprise to those who know me that Stella Nova Spa Salon comes in at number one in the salon category. Before any of those people start groaning too loudly, let me assure one and all that they'd genuinely be number one on my salon list whether I did any work for Stella Nova or not... and you'll see why in a moment. (Those who know me also know I'm honest, maybe too much so! I'm not going to recommend every client I have here; I'll only recommend the ones I've used as a customer and have truly enjoyed.)

I've always gone to reputable salons, and I've had some lovely stylists. Unfortunately, though, perhaps because I'd always pre-reserve my appointments on Saturdays, as time went on I almost inevitably would arrive on time for my appointment only to find that someone had booked my stylist as the sole service provider for an entire wedding party... during my appointment. If I was lucky, she'd only be trying to do one other person at the same time as me, but from spring to fall I was often shunted aside or stuck under a dryer in a corner with a magazine to read, hoping I would be remembered before my (processing) hair started falling out. My stylist would always be kindly apologetic and completely stressed.

Then I had my first appointment at Stella Nova's West Ashley location, one of its newest. I walked in, and rather than being shunted off to a waiting area I was whisked to my stylist's chair, where I was the sole focus of his attention for the duration of my visit. About 20 minutes into my appointment, the stylist next to us offered me some wine, and when I accepted (hardly believing my luck), delivered my order with panache. I was not charged for this, nor would I have been for the hot tea, chilled water, or snacks waiting invitingly next to a vase bursting with fresh roses in the waiting area. As I sipped, my stylist highlighted my hair exactly as I had asked while offering me tips on the best way to care for my hair after my visit, and other stylists took interest as well, discussing the best colors for my complexion. The salon area was bright, clean, streamlined, and perfectly balanced in terms of design; club music pulsed with energy in the background; and the sunny view (every wall is filled with windows from floor to ceiling) was green and lovely.

My stylist, Marty Proctor, later moved to Birmingham (alas!), though the stylist who offered me wine, Jack Duane, is still there and regularly gives my husband the best haircuts he has ever had. I've since had my hair done regularly by both Kate Grabowski and Tasha Mattox, and both have been absolutely lovely. Tasha is always on the cutting edge of fashion, and Kate is thoroughly experienced, having owned her own salon in the past. Kate makes me want to melt during every appointment at the shampoo bowl; after she works shampoo through my hair, she uses the warm water and suds to wonderful effect as she delivers the perfect neck massage. Aaaahh.

From harried stylists and dark, forgotten corners to wine and neck massages... I can never go back to the old days! Stella Nova has definitely earned its spot on my favorites list.

If you're thinking of partaking in the same delights, don't be afraid to ask Lisa Rickel, the extraordinary manager at the West Ashley location, who would be the best stylist for you. It's very difficult to go wrong with any stylist there, but each one truly excels in different areas. Lisa is unfailingly honest about their individual areas of excellence.

If you're closer to downtown, ask Kalena Doo for the best stylist for you; if you're closer to Mount Pleasant, ask Lesli Antley; and if you're closer to Summerville, ask Margie Sutton. If you can't reach one of them, the customer care specialists who staff the front desk usually have a good handle on this as well; just ask to speak to the most senior customer care specialist present. You can find phone numbers, directions, and addresses (and can usually find my latest ad handiwork on the home page) by clicking on the "contact us" link at