It is 8 a.m. on Friday morning and Laura Motyka, owner of Concrete Blonde Studio, is already buzzing around her hair salon located in the centre of Garibaldi Village.
She has a client coming in at 8:30 a.m. so as she talks she gets coffee started and switches on the computer at the reception desk.
She looks like you would expect someone who owns one of the most popular hair salons in the District to look: hair and make-up perfect, clothes stylish and coordinated. But Motyka is very much a Squamish local: she is open and friendly. The Chief sat down with Motyka for a chat about living in Squamish, being a business owner and what she does for fun. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: What is your history in Squamish?
A: I have had this shop here for seven years. I was born and raised in North Vancouver and this will be my husband and I’s 13th summer in Squamish.
Q: What made you interested in hair in the first place?
A: Actually, it was my dad who got me into it in the first place. He had done some maintenance work on an appliance at this lady’s house and she ran a hairdressing school. I had no real after high school plans other than working and making some money and my dad was like, “How about this?”
I had always been interested in hair, though. I always had a bit of a knack for it too, so that is what made my dad push me, I think.
I went through Barbies like we change underpants because I was always cutting their hair. I actually remember getting in trouble for it. I got so many Barbies, like my son collects Lego.
Q: Hair dressing seems to be so much about relationships. We women, especially, seem to tell our stylists everything. Why do you think that is?
A: That guard that you have up is let down, I guess, when someone touches you. My husband thinks it is weird we touch people for a living.
But, you know what, it is actually way more the men who talk, not the females. There’s this quote, “You can get a hair cut anywhere, but a relationship with your hairdresser is sacred.”
It is weird and guys, especially, are so loyal. I would say 30 per cent of my clientele is male and of that 30 per cent I bet I will still be cutting their hair in my 60s, whereas women seem to ebb and flow in who their stylist is.
Q: What else have you learned about people in your role?
A: What I have learned being a boss, as opposed to an employee, is that each one of my staff members collects a very specific clientele. People are naturally drawn to people who are like themselves. My clients tend to be early 30s to mid-40s with younger families. One of my staff members has tattoos and her ears stretched and she seems to attract a similar demographic. It happens naturally and I find that incredibly interesting. It is magic, but that is what makes the job so great.
Q: What are the joys and challenges of owning a business in Squamish?
A: The amazing part of owning a business in a small town – and I have a hard time talking about it without getting emotional, which is cheesy – is that the team we have is so close here.
It is a sisterhood, like no other and that is amazing and I never had that working in the Lower Mainland.
With two or three of us in here having younger kids, we often find ourselves sitting together having a coffee while our kids are in gymnastics. I think that is a huge advantage for me as a boss. I don’t just get to be a part of their lives here I get to be in their personal lives in a great way.
The down side is it has taken seven years to create a full staff. There isn’t a hair dressing school in Squamish so it means they are going to have to go to the city first and most of those schools have affiliate salons they put their students in first.
At one point we were down to three staff members, including myself, and that was hairy. It scared me.
Other times we would find someone great and they couldn’t find a place to live. That has been an uphill battle for seven years.
Q: You’ve been here during a really big shift in Squamish. What do you think of all the development and people moving here?
A: I have mixed emotions. From a sheer business mindset, I think it is great.
In our personal life, though, it has been a bit heartbreaking. There’s a core group of us moms who had kids five or six years ago and we’ve lost three families out of 10. A loss of 30 per cent of our little mom-village has been hard to swallow.
One, their lease was up and the landlord was putting the lease up to the point it was asinine, so they moved to Vernon. Another couple made a killing on their townhouse and moved to Victoria. Another one moved to Rossland.
Q: Concrete Blonde – is that after the ’80s band?
A: It is! There’s one more salon with the name Concrete Blonde, but in Australia.
A lot of people ask if we are a franchise, we are not. Squamish is pretty keen to spend their money locally and I have had people ask if the owners are local. I think that is something people don’t always know about us.