Salon First Celebrates 25 years

Salon First turns 25!

Salon First began life as ‘Individual Beauty Care’ run by Beth Merkus, a single mum raising a young son, in her Melbourne suburban home in 1989.

Before long she met her future business partner George Pawlowski who saw the potential of her business. They soon opened a wholesaling shop in Burwood Highway, Burwood.

George was kept busy at the counter ordering stock and serving clients, while Beth trained new nail technicians in the art of Backscratchers Nail Care systems. Before long they changed the business name to Backscratchers to support the Backscratchers brand that they were importing and training in. The business initially handled a small range of nail and beauty brands with a few hundred products.

In 1996, the decision was made to expand. They went into partnership with others and opened ‘the Nail Supa Mart’ in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs, Moorabbin. They expanded their existing 80m2 showroom in Burwood to over 600m2 in Moorabbin. Peter Tashounidis (our present National Sales Manager) was left to manage the Burwood showroom and to hone his customer service skills.

Having survived the introduction of the GST and Y2K bug hysteria, their 3rd showroom, a small shop in the western suburbs of Melbourne ~ Avondale Heights was opened in 2001. Shop fitting was done at a frantic pace with George supervising and Vinnie (their resident carpenter, sales man, graphic artist) building the shop into what is now known as the Salon First ‘signature style’; the first wholesale showroom in Australia to look like a ‘retail’ store. Complete with down lights, Axminster carpet (we all remember it ~purple with stars!) and glass shelving. Products had never looked better. The bar had been set high.

Later that same year George travelled to Sydney to secure their first showroom in Sydney’s western suburbs. A small factory-ette, that again with Vinnie and Georges expertise, was converted into a ‘signature style’ Salon First showroom.

2005 saw the opening of a second showroom in leafy Sydney suburb of Lane Cove. It wasn’t long however before both the showrooms had become too small. In 2011 the decision was made to close both showrooms and re-locate them to a new ‘mega’ showroom in Sydney’s western suburbs. With over five times the floor space and dedicated training room, the new showroom was a huge success.

In 2006 George and Beth went into partnership with Arnold vander Werf to open a showroom in the southern suburb of Brisbane. Arnold re-located from Melbourne to Brisbane to run the store. Before leaving for Brisbane he underwent crash courses in Nails, Waxing, Facials and Tanning, proving to be a quick learner! His former life as a school Principal seemed like a far cry from the demands of running a wholesale beauty business, but his leadership skills, willingness to learn and throw himself into the store, made him the ideal business partner.

Two years later Salon Firsts’ warehouse was bursting at the seams. It was time to look for a new home for both warehouse and Head Office. The location in Frankston, Victoria was found and during a 4 day process, the company moved into their new 1100sqm property. With the added floor space a showroom quickly followed, making the Frankston showroom their 6th showroom Australia-wide.

Completing the move to their new corporate location, Pronto Software was installed and implemented. A fully integrated software system which incorporated payroll, inventory, sales, purchasing, allowing real time data results.

Within 18 months Salon First launched their online presence {} complete with fully integrated shopping cart, solely for their registered ‘professional only’ customers. The user friendly site complimented the existing showroom based business, giving their 25,000+ customers more choice on how and when they shopped. Office Manager, Jeanette, and her dedicated team designed and implemented the entire website. Their great planning and foresight have been key to its user-friendliness and ultimate success.

With showrooms up the eastern seaboard in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne it was now time to look further afield and Adelaide was the market of choice. In 2012 the Salon First group opened its first showroom in St Marys, 10km south of Adelaide city. Discount Salon Supplies was born.

A website and store front were launched using Discount Salon Supplies to create a ‘buzz’ in the SA marketplace that had been sorely neglected for too long. Within 6 months it was an obvious success, exceeding all expectations. Customers raved about access to so many brands, professional staff and continuity of stock.

Today Salon First has 7 showrooms employing over 30 staff, a dedicated warehouse 2 websites and supports over 136 different Brands with 9000 different products. George and Beth continue to own and operate the business with their dedicated loyal staff. Arnold is still a co-owner of the Brisbane showroom, although has eased back into retirement in Bendigo, Victoria.

George and Beth both acknowledge that they couldn’t have done it without the support of their devoted staff, their loyal customers and their supportive suppliers. The building and nurturing of these relationships has been paramount to the success of Salon First. Without them the business would not be what it is today…the largest Beauty Wholesaler in Australia…

…and growing.

What’s next? and see. Not long now and some exciting announcements will be made..!

Life Events:
In 1989 – Beth Merkus began trading as ‘Individual Beauty Care’ – Burwood, Vic
In 1990 – George Pawlowski join Beth Merkus helping to expand her home business
In 1992 – Opened 1st showroom in Burwood, Victoria
In 1996 – Opened 2nd showroom, Head office and warehouse in Moorabbin, Vic
In 2001 – Opened 3rd showroom in western suburbs in Avondale Heights, Vic
In 2001 – Opened 4th showroom in western suburbs in Sydney, Seven Hills, NSW
In 2005 – opened Second Sydney showroom, Lane Cove, NSW, since closed and combined both Sydney stores into 1 mega store
In 2006 – Opened 5th showroom in Brisbane, – Coopers Plains, Qld
In 2008 – Relocated Head Office and warehouse to Frankston, Vic
In 2008 – Opened 6th showroom in Frankston, Vic (4th showroom in Melbourne)
In 2010 – Launch online shopping presence
In 2011 – relocated Sydney showroom - 5 x larger
In 2011 – relocated Brisbane showroom – Salisbury, Qld
In 2012 – Opened 7th showroom in Adelaide, - St Marys, SA