“Lone & Co.” is actually Cheryl Lone and her team of associates, now one of the most popular places to go for a haircut, colouring, beard trim, or even a heart-to-heart conversation.
While I may be due for another haircut soon, I am always eager to talk with Cheryl. Never mind the top of my head for now. First I wanted to chat with her to ask her about the art & the business of beauty.
barczablog: I always begin by asking: are you more like your father or your mother?
CHERYL: I look like my mother but I am like my father through and through. I think he’s just calm and his temperament is calm. But his work ethic is crazy. I am a Gemini and a redhead, like him.
barczablog: There are two sides to you?
CHERYL: Yes, I can switch my moods really easily, kind of like my mom.
barczablog: Isn’t it also true that any creator –singer, actor, and you, as a creative entrepreneur—is going to have to be a split personality? The creative side & the business side are different.
CHERYL: Yes they are totally different. And when you’re not in the mood you have to learn how to mask it, to fake it: you can’t be in a bad mood. Before, when I was younger, I could just do it, be the problem solver.
barczablog: How many people do you have working in here, normally?
CHERYL: with support staff from nine to eleven people. And I’m doing clients all day so I have to manage the clients: And each one of those has a different personality. Plus I have to manage eleven creative personalities in the salon.
barczablog: A bit of a chameleon?
CHERYL: Oh 100%! But –I don’t mean to be conceited—but I’ve heard this a lot through my life, that I can just put on the role and do it. Chameleon. And every hour I have to conform to somebody’s energy.
barczablog: Artist but also therapist?
CHERYL: Oh totally. I have three clients over the years who come in, and I’ll sit down beside them on my stool and they’ll tell me: talk or cut.
barczablog: Like a psychotherapist?
CHERYL: yeah. A client will say “oh I needed to see you, run it by you…” It happens a lot. I always got sent ….hm I don’t know if “crazy” is the right word. But I always got the clients who were difficult, challenging. I could handle them and I enjoy it.
barczablog: So you have a history at other salons handling the people no one else could handle?
barczablog: And maybe that’s where this salon got some of its success. You’ve been singled out in NOW magazine, Blog TO, And people have noticed you’ve got something special here. And it’s not just about the hair.
CHERYL: My staff play a huge part in this. I got to hand-pick my staff. In the year and a bit that we’ve been open, it’s consistent, I hear this from the clients. We have a good vibe, good energy in here. I’ve worked in enough salons that I knew what I wanted to create. And it’s happening.
barczablog: That’s why you’re a good therapist. Therapists are listeners as I recall right?
There is ego: because this is a young person’s job. We have some in their 20s, some later. I have another girl who’s my age. I don’t think you know how to sort your ego out until later in life. It’s there, it comes out once in awhile but it’s not too bad.
barczablog: So you’re a mentor in some ways.
CHERYL: I worked at Civello’s for ten years, five years ago. All my staff, except two people, are from Civello’s. Two of them I mentored at Civello’s when they were 18, and now they’re here, twelve years later.
barczablog: Does that mean that when they’re working sometimes they come to you with their troubles, like you’re their mom, and you’re helping them solve creative problems?
CHERYL: Oh yeah sometimes they call me “Mama Cheryl”. Or “Mom“. In my younger days they’d ask questions. And I just watch them and give them feedback on how they handle clients and stuff.
Like: sit in front of them, and look at them eye to eye.
Like: don’t talk through the mirror.
Like little things like that. A lot of people stand behind the chair and talk. I try to get my staff (the people I mentor) to stand in front of them.
barczablog: And you know I have some issues with my neck. It’s so interesting. I never noticed any of this because you put me at ease. Now I will be thinking about it.
CHERYL: It’s impersonal to talk through a mirror, and awkward. The number one thing about my staff is customer service. It’s a fading art, customer service, in any job. I’m on it all the time.
Walk your client to the front.
Come get your client.
barczablog: And you give great hugs. Do you talk to them about that, too?
CHERYL: Ah but not everybody likes to hug. Usually I am a pretty good judge. [Cheryl does the body language of someone not wanting to be touched…]…”oh sorry!”
barczablog: You’ve been boss here for how long?
CHERYL: This salon, since last February, and a salon in the Beaches for two years.
Everybody is good at everything. But there are people who have specialties.
And you just get referrals. Another difference with this salon is that everybody gets to choose what they want to do. I don’t get people to do what they don’t want to do.
And everybody is priced at what they think they’re worth. So when I hire somebody, they tell me what they want to charge. And it usually works. At the other salons I’ve worked at there’s a “junior” and an “intermediate” and a “senior”. That’s how they name it.
barczablog: In terms of pricing?
CHERYL: and in terms of lingo. So they say “between junior, intermediate and senior stylists, who do you want to see”? And I don’t do that here. Everybody’s the same.
barczablog: Aha you don’t make a class distinction. That’s so dignified.
CHERYL: And what does it mean anyway? Marvel is much better at barbering than I am. He’s been on the floor for 2 ½ years, and I’m going on eighteen. So why do I get to say I am a “senior stylist”?
barczablog: And I think that’s something people pick up on. So can we talk a bit about style..? Would you spend a lot of time keeping up on what’s new?
CHERYL: not as much as I used to. I definitely flip through magazines, and once in awhile I’ll google spring-summer hair trends. The trends are more styling than the actual cut. So it’s like: everyone does beachy waves now, it doesn’t matter what kind of hair you have, long short, medium, whatever it is, everyone wants beachy waves. So it’s more the styling than the cut. And it’s all over the map now. It used to be one specific haircut. Like the Jennifer Aniston or the Victoria Beckham. It’s kind of like those have faded, it’s all over the place now. You can google street fashions from all over the world, or music videos or celebrities.
barczablog: So what’s special about Lone & Co?
CHERYL: I just want people to come in and be relaxed. Salons can be an intimidating place. I have great staff who will sit and help people feel relaxed.
barczablog: You gave me brilliant haircuts, several actually. What’s the key to replicating that look at home?
CHERYL: there are a few keys. It all depends on the hair you’re working with. Everybody has to use product in their hair. It’s a given. You only need one. I’m not one to suggest three products as some do. You need one product that works for your hair. It might take a few tries to figure out what that is…
barczablog: That sounds so simple.
CHERYL: Sure. Wash and wear is great, but most people don’t have wash and wear hair. Everybody’s hair needs work. Having the right tools (which is easier said than done), but everyone here is pretty realistic about what someone’s going to do when they go home. So it’s just trying to keep it simple. And not over-complicate it, so that they feel they can achieve it.
barczablog: You’re being interviewed by someone who thinks of himself as old. You actually made me feel comfortable trying something much bolder and more nervy than anything I’ve ever done before. Is that just part of that whole psychology thing you were talking about? Do you always try to take people in a bolder direction?
CHERYL: No. You get really good at reading people. It takes about five minutes for me to figure out. Your hair didn’t reflect your personality. There are some people who come in and they have really long simple hair and they’ll say “I want a change!” And I can tell right away. They don’t. And you talk about it. Well we could do this and this, and they’re like (whining voice)”we-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l”…. So I can tell pretty quickly what direction that’s going to go in.
barczablog: So I’m very flattered by what you’re telling me. You actually gave me what I asked for.
CHERYL: When you do this job you get a real knack for reading people.
barczablog: so can we talk about bridal for a minute? Do you sometimes have the whole place taken over by a wedding party?
CHERYL: Yeah. They usually start earlier. I’ve also done off-site weddings. But it’s usually 75% a stressful situation and 25% of the time, super laid back. We get the very beginning of “okay this is it!” You’ll get a bridesmaid reading her speech, or calling and yelling “make sure the flowers are gonna be there on time”.
barczablog: And how is this working for your staff? Are you sometimes taking them aside and giving them a pep talk or a hug? Because they’re all stressed out?
CHERYL: Yes bridal parties are high stress. Sometimes people have to walk away, without anybody knowing (know what I mean?). They just need a minute, maybe to go to the back because somebody’s changed their mind. They have to have their up do done by a particular time..(!) It gets a little stressful. I don’t do those anymore. I come, and say “how’s everybody doing”? Making sure everyone’s on time, getting the next person into makeup.
barczablog: what is your ultimate dream? To expand?
CHERYL: My absolute dream is to have this salon, and to go to the cottage a few days, and then come to the salon. That’s all I need. I just want to be able to do that.
barczablog: Okay here’s another version of that question. Is Lone & Co a version of you? Do you look at the salon & see yourself?
CHERYL: Yeah…! I’ve been told I have a very calming energy. I feel that is here. I feel a lot of pride when I hear people say that, because I’ve achieved what I set out to do. It feels like me when I walk in.
barczablog: Can I ask you about your influences..? is there a teacher you look back to, that you want to mention??
CHERYL: I would mention Ray Civello. He taught me.
My dad has been my inspiration in terms of work ethic. My dad was taken out of school in grade 6 to farm. He has been a hard labourer his whole life. I try to do things to make him proud.
barczablog: So who do you like to listen to?
CHERYL: it’s mostly Netflix, I don’t have cable. I’m not home enough.
barczablog: But you have the radio on here all the time.
CHERYL: I come here and the music is on.
barczablog: So do you have a soundtrack, do you pick what’s played here? Or is it up to somebody else?
CHERYL: We all dive into that.
barczablog: So it’s a team again. You’re not the big boss who imposes your taste on everyone. You’re consistent even with the music.
CHERYL: They pick what they want to listen to. It changes every few hours. I try to involve them a lot.
barczablog: What ability or skill do you wish you had?
CHERYL: To sing… I wish I could sing:
barczablog: When you’re just relaxing and not working… what would you do?
CHERYL: Cottage…reading. Go to the Island.
barczablog: So you must be really frustrated that Toronto Island is currently closed due to high water levels…!
CHERYL: Very frustrated. I like water. As I get older, my Cheryl time is getting less and less. When I have a day off, it’s still sometimes work on the business. Things get compacted. Sometimes you just want to go home and shut your brain off.
barczablog: Your work is very social, around people. Do you get enough time alone?
CHERYL: I love my own company. Going home and just reading is bliss. It depends on the day. Some days I need to shut my brain off. I need a distraction: so I’ll turn on the TV. And I can shut my brain off.
barczablog: do you drink coffee?
CHERYL: I drink one in the morning, seven days a week. It’s a slippery slope. I grew up in a lot of salons.
barczablog: you mean: addiction?
CHERYL: I’ve seen a lot of people who just drink coffee all day. They don’t eat. You don’t get paid when you’re eating, so it’s tempting to just keep working. And people will run to the back, stand at the table and eat a few bites. And then go back out.
barczablog: is that the normal culture?
CHERYL: Yes. And even when I have a lunch, I’m reading emails. And I’m eating fast. I feel I’m rushing. I was going to say, that having a business in some ways is like having a child. It doesn’t go away, I never forget, it doesn’t ever stop, you always worry.
barczablog: What’s the best thing about what you do?
CHERYL: The best thing is making people feel great. It’s a very powerful thing. And people letting you into their space. There’s not a lot that people do that you get so close. How many things can you think of, other than say doctor, that you spend time with, so close? It’s really a rewarding thing. Sometimes you lose sight of that, you’re tired or have a blah week. And then you’ll cut a client’s hair and their eyes well up. They say it’s so amazing and you can tell. You’ve made somebody feel real good. I always try to tell the kids: you don’t know where somebody’s coming from. Somebody’s dad could have just passed away. Somebody could have lost a job. Somebody’s partner could have left them. And it’s your job to switch that. That’s your job.
And I can read people. I know when someone’s going through something, really quickly. And there are times when people say “I want a change”, or “I want something super different”. And I’ve got to a point in my career where I feel comfortable–the younger ones not so much – where I’ll pull up my chair, and say “what’s going on? did you lose your job, divorce, death? “ And they just look at me, and they’re like “yeah”? and their eyes well up. Okay. So we’re not doing that. In two months you come back and we’ll do that. There are so many stories over the years. There’s this one woman, the first time I cut her hair, and she started crying into her hands. I didn’t know what to do. She said “thank you, you made me feel beautiful, this is my first haircut after chemo”.
That’s why you do it.
barczablog: Is there anything you’d like to tell the world? Are we washing our hair too much? (I self-consciously handle my frizzy hair)
CHERYL: Generally people do wash their hair too much. It’s a hard hard thing to break. It depends on the hair. You can just rinse it (instead of shampoo). The oils are going to help you with the frizz.
barczablog: Some people have straight hair and wish it were curly, some of us have really curly hair and wish they had straight hair.
CHERYL: It’s a fascinating thing. 98% of the people who come in to this salon don’t like their hair. Nobody likes their hair.
barczablog: I wonder if part of it is that people aren’t always honest, as people will act like they’re happy about something and not admit that they’re unhappy. I think people are very honest with you. You help people come to terms with what they have, to love the hair they have. That’s a huge thing.
CHERYL: You have to be really straight with people. People will want me to turn them into something they’re not, like making the frizz go away. I mean the frizz: that’s just your hair. I don’t have a magic wand.
Lone & Co. are found on Queen St near the corner of Broadview. Find out more by looking at their website.