Salon's solution: trim what doesn't work

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

Country Classics Hair Design will evolve its business instead of suffering from a lack of demand for tanning in the poor economy.

The owners' decision to adapt shows that at least a few merchants are keeping their heads in the weakening of the national economy.

Rather than continuing to get burned with the decrease in demand for tanning, Priscilla Sizemore and son Mike Burnette will shut that portion of their business down.

The owners see the chance to provide a more necessary service in its place and they feel good about it.

In June, they plan to open a child care center.

Amid all the hoopla about the credit crisis, the slowing economy, the failure of banks and the closing of chain stores, the perspective taken by Sizemore and Burnette seems much more hopeful than those found in most media reports.

Noticing a significant drop-off in use of the tanning beds that coincided with a year of massive layoffs in the Twin Counties, Sizemore and Burnette concluded it was time to adapt and change to fit the new circumstances.

"The biggest change we're making is we're getting rid of the tanning business," Burnette told The Gazette, as Sizemore continued to tend to a roomful of hair clients. "As times have gotten harder, tanning's becoming a luxury.

"And around here when it comes down to it — food or tanning..." he shrugged.

The choice is simple.

Every working parent, will continue to need child care as they make ends meet.

This will be a new venture, and Burnette sees the ability to reshape and adapt as a good one. The owners have run the idea past their customers with children and have talked to other child care centers in the area.

So far, everyone has voiced approval about the coming change.

From other people in child care, they hear that there's more demand than spaces for kids. The others can't keep up with demand.

"Most day cares we talk to say they're turning down kids left and right," Burnette said.

"One thing that's going to set us apart is we will have a licensed teacher who's running it, and she will be setting up different kinds of learning programs to keep things fun."

He believes in evolving to keep up with the times.

Country Classic first started out with two tanning beds in 1988. A big boom in tanning came in the late '80s and early '90s, and during that time they added another five beds.

Demand has gone down and leveled out to the point where tanning was no longer profitable. "We can go back and track when the first factory closed..." Burnett points out.

In the last few years, more people wanted to own their own bed. Country Classics had no problem selling all seven of their machines in a week.

Talking with business development officials at the Crossroads Institute and social services representatives, Sizemore and Burnette believe there's growth potential in child care.

They also feel good about creating four jobs with their new venture.

"It don't sound like a lot, but when you got nothing, it's something," Burnette said.

The owners will see how it goes with an eye toward expanding to offer child care for second-shift workers.

The facility will be licensed to keep up to 25 children, Sizemore said. Whitney Coleman — who's getting a four-year degree in teaching from Radford this spring — will oversee the child care efforts.

It's not time to let your business get stuck in a rut, Burnette said, "Because a rut is just a grave with both ends knocked out."

This economy is survivable. Burnette's take on this situation is that not all that much has changed. "To me, what's happened is that for years everybody's bought and bought stuff they didn't even need and then common sense just set in and then for the first time.

“Instead of going out and getting a brand new car like you do every four years, you start thinking about a nest egg or something, 'cause people have just started putting back more," he said "The money's out there, just nobody wants to let go of it."

On the government stimulus package, Burnette says the more they hand out, the less it works.

The man that has only one dollar is more sensible with that one dollar than a man with a million dollars.

The hair salon will continue to do business, Burnette said it's still doing well. A hair cut's not really a luxury, though some people might put theirs off for a few weeks longer now.

Sizemore said she's been thinking about what to do with the tanning space for about a year.

She got the idea for child care after talking to Coleman, who said she could run such a business with her degree, as well as teach. So, Sizemore offered to set Coleman up in the space she had available.

Sizemore has two grandchildren, Loren and Parker, who could stay in the day care — who she could sneak over and love on in between clients, she said.

Burnette acknowledges they don't know exactly what to expect with the new service, but they are excited about taking this step.

"The true test always comes when you see what you've got after you got it," he said. "You can stand back and talk about something, but until it's put forth and brought together you don't get the full views and aspects of it all."

What is your business doing to survive the changing economy?

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