Cowboy gives salon a make over

Article by Elissa Cottle published in the Stillwater Gazette, MN:

"About face: Marine Corps vet and Stillwater salon owner happy with career change"

When Stillwater salon and spa owner Ernie Shores walks into the Aveda Institute, “they call me the cowboy.” A Marine Corps veteran with 30-plus years in the manufacturing industry, Shores probably would not get pegged as someone running a beauty biz. Shores laughs at the idea himself, but couldn't be happier in his about-face career move.

Shores is the proud owner of A'salonna salon and spa, which relocated from the Grand Garage building on South Main Street, to 225 E. Chestnut St. on June 1. Shores has never styled hair or applied anyone's makeup, but he's a smart businessman who bought the salon two years ago from its previous owner, at a time when the business was suffering. As he did in his manufacturing career, from electronics to playground equipment and other products, Shores excels at the challenge of improving the workplace.

He gave himself eight months to turn it around financially. “We did it in four months,” he said, achieving a positive cash flow and increasing annual sales by 18 percent in his first year, and 22 percent in his second year at the helm of A'salonna.

The company was founded 38 years ago as “Anna Lou's” by Anna Lou Johnson in its current spot on Chestnut Street. It was passed down to Johnson's daughter, Mary Beth Johnson, who renamed it A'salonna, combining the words Anna Lou and salon, said Shores. The business moved to Grand Garage in 2011, and is now back on Chestnut where it started. Shores said the space it occupied in Grand Garage was not ideal because it was broken into multiple levels.

A'salonna replaced Studio One Yoga and Massage in the Chestnut location. Studio One is now in the Isaac Staples Building, at 402 N. Main St. in Stillwater.

With the relocation, A'salonna increased from four to six chairs for customers seeking hair cuts, styling, coloring, foiling, hair repair treatments, facials, waxing, and hair and eyelash extensions. The salon and spa also offers massages and a wide array of Aveda-only products for skin, hair, makeup, and scents. When the women finish their appointments, “they're just glowing,” said Shores.

Shores credits the success of the salon to his staff of five stylists, and two front-desk coordinators. All are trained by Aveda, the Twin Cities-based company of natural, plant-based beauty products and cosmetology schools. He said he's planning to hire two additional hair stylists, a massage therapist, and an esthetician (a cosmetology skin specialist).

Shores' daughter, Jessie Johnson, is one of the A'salonna stylists. She had been working there before her father came on board. She proposed he buy the business when she was concerned about its future. His daughter, and the fact that it was an Aveda-based business, sold him. Shores describes himself as a naturalist who aims to reduce his carbon footprint on the earth. “You're not going to get any more natural than the Aveda products,” he said. Selling Aveda is “just a breath of fresh air.”

Shores said he wants his staff to thrive in their careers and covers the costs of their training upgrades at the Aveda Institute. He's also about making work enjoyable. A'salonna's monthly company meetings are on a pontoon boat on the river.

Shores is a community-active business owner. He's part of the downtown revitalization initiative of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. He's also a member of the Stillwater Main Street Independent Business Alliance and led a downtown clean-up project this spring. “I'm going to do all I can to create a downtown community of businesses,” he said, “and have some fun.”

He's also led river clean-ups and prairie restoration projects with youth groups. Shores was born in Superior, raised in Solon Springs, lived in California after his tour with the Marines, and now lives in New Richmond, with his wife, Paula, of 30 years. They have three grown children, Josh, Jessie and Grant, and one grandchild with a second on the way.

Besides the salon, Shores still has his toe in manufacturing through his consulting business -- eshores solutions. He loves work and says he carries no regrets. “I have no luggage,” he said. “I'll always look upstream.”

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