Style, elegance, professionalism are some words you may use to describe the women behind Salon di Panache in Newton at 51 Trinity Street. But those that know their story may also add strength, perseverance, and loyalty to that list. Kathy Czerhoniak, who helps run the salon business with her mother Patricia Heal and sister Kim Eben, is the fifth generation in her family to enter the beauty business, and her daughter, who is currently studying at VoTech, will be the sixth. And as their legacy grows, so has their business.
In November 2021, after countless COVID-related delays, they opened a second location, in Sparta, at 14 North Village Blvd. But getting to that point wasn’t easy.
Heal first set up shop in Newton in the early 1990s. At the time she was working for another salon, but had compiled quite the roster of clients and was ready to move out on her own. So, day by day, she worked toward that goal. She found a historic building from the 1840s perfect for restoration. And with the help of her handy husband, Andrew, went to work refurbishing the place in secret, so as not to jeopardize her existing position. Andrew even crafted each stool individually.
But a freak accident spilled the beans. A car plowed through the front porch of her new salon, destroying some of the painstaking woodwork performed by her husband. And once the media found out who the owners were, the word was out. Luckily, they were able to rebuild, and Heal wasn’t driven out of town for her plan to bring clients from her previous salon to her new business.
And despite the rocky start, the business flourished. It became the place to go for all kinds of beauty treatments. Not just hair, but nails, waxing, even massage.
That first Newton location was nearly four decades in the making, as her family first ventured into the beauty business back in 1946. Heal herself started in 1965, and studied at the CAPRI Institute of Hair Design.
Czerhoniak recalled being around two years old, pretending to work at the salon. But it was Eben who entered the family business first, starting in 1989.
When asked who she didn’t initially go into business with her family, Czerhoniak said, “I went off on a different path.” Then life changed, she started a family of her own, and felt the call back to her roots.
“I felt most comfortable in that atmosphere,” she said of the salon and working with her family. “I had kids and wanted to work, mom said come in to work.”
When asked if working with family means an increase in family squabbles, Heal and Czerhoniak laughed, “We try not to, but it’s inevitable,” Czerhoniak said, but added that they, “balance each other out.”
At first, Czerhoniak started working on the managerial side of the business. Then she expanded her education and now works with clients. Czerhoniak said it’s a “constant education,” keeping up with the latest beauty trends, treatments, and science behind the practice — whether it’s a newly formulated hair dye or a novel way to permanently cover up mastectomy scars in breast cancer patients. Their services, and knowledgebase, runs the gamut.
Perhaps it was their ability to grow and cater their practice to what their clients need that put them on the radar for the Sparta location, in addition to a stellar reputation.
Czerhoniak explained that it was not their idea to open the second location in Sparta. She said the landlords associated with the Sparta ShopRite approached them about opening a second location in one of their available storefronts, a large, 4,600-square-foot space with an adjoining barber shop. The landlords wanted an established business to take over the space, and Salon di Panache came to mind. Over in Newton, they were fully occupied with loyal clients and salon specialists and were eager to bring their success to Sparta.
Czerhoniak said they signed the lease for the new place in early 2020, right before COVID threw everyone into a tailspin. Shortly after, their Newton business had to shut down for three months, and all renovations on the new location were put on hold. They just had to wait, an excruciating experience for a new business. And while the Newton location did qualify for a certain amount of federal assistance, the Sparta location, since it was new and did not have any established income to show, didn’t get any.
Reflecting back, Czerhoniak said, “I don’t know if I would have done it” if she knew that COVID was coming, adding that it was a big step to take.
Of course, with COVID also came supply delays as factories that were shut down had to slowly start back up again and cater to all of the construction projects that were delayed due to COVID shutdowns. In all, Czerhoniak said it too three years for her family just to get the Sparta location refurbished and ready for clients. But the hard work did pay off. Now, with both locations, Salon di Panache, as Czerhoniak put it, is a “one-stop-shop” for all that is health and beauty.
They offer hair cutting, dying, facials, waxing, brow work, massage, balayage, nails, and even permanent makeup. They are also unique in that they carry vegan beauty products. (For a full list of services, visit salondipanache.com.)
Now that they have survived the occasional car plunge, the constant education needed to stay on top of the industry, and the continuing trials brought by COVID, one last hurdle remains: finding talented staff to support their new Sparta location.
Heal and Czerhoniak both noted that loyalty is a keystone of their staff, some of which have been with them for 20 years. The majority of their Newton staff was able to wait out COVID lockdowns and return to work, but they’ve struggled to find staff to fill the Sparta location. Czerhoniak noted that they have about 30 people on staff, but need about 30 more. And they’re looking for anyone with experience in the beauty business who is simply looking to work in a family atmosphere that offers virtually any kind of beauty treatment you can think of, and probably a few you haven’t. Those interested in either a cut or a career can reach out to the Salon di Panache team at their website, Facebook page, or by calling 973-940-8886.