After more than half a century, a new set of hands is now guiding the city’s oldest downtown nail salon — The Magic Room.
Company founder Iris Pollock recently sold her flagship salon at 264 Edmonton St., which opened in 1965 at a different location, to fledgeling entrepreneur Erika Giannini.
Pollock also sold her two satellite salons at 652 Leila Ave. and 1615 St. Mary’s Rd. The St. Mary’s Road location was purchased by one of her long-time employees who has co-owned and operated the salon for many years, and the Leila Avenue salon was sold to a former employee who used to work at the Edmonton Street salon. However, the downtown salon is the only one that has retained the The Magic Room name.
The transactions allowed Pollock, who has been semi-retired for more than 15 years, to finally step away from a business that at one time boasted four locations in Winnipeg and two in Calgary.
Interestingly, it wasn’t Pollock who set the wheels in motion for her transition into full retirement. It was Giannini, who had been a Magic Room customer for more than 15 years and was looking for a business to acquire after obtaining a master’s in business administration degree.
"I was looking for a job but nothing was exciting me," Giannini explained. "Then it just dawned on me one day that I should probably talk to Iris to see what she had planned for the business once she was done."
Giannini said she knew Pollock didn’t have any children waiting in the wings to take over the business, and that about three years ago she completed a major renovation of the second floor of the Edmonton Street salon.
"I assumed from that that she probably wanted to keep it going," she said.
Pollock said she’d been thinking for some time about retiring because for the last 15 or 20 years she’s been going away for the winter and relying on some long-time employees to manage the day-to-day operations. But she always enjoyed jumping back in upon her return to the city each spring, so there was no compelling reason to sell until Giannini came along.
"I liked her and I liked her personality, so she talked me into it. But it wasn’t too hard," Pollock said with a laugh. She said The Magic Room was the first nail salon to open in the downtown. It operated out of several different locations until she purchased the current 7,000-square-foot location in the mid-1980s.
Her salon initially specialized in manicures, pedicures and facials, and Pollock said from the outset she tried to keep prices as low as possible.
"I wanted every type of person to pamper themselves... and I didn’t want them to feel guilty about having a manicure or something."
She also prided herself on introducing new products or services to the Winnipeg market. The Magic Room was the first salon in the city to offer artificial nails, eyebrow threading, and leg waxing, she said.
Pollock said when she started out, not many people were getting manicures, pedicures or facials. So for years there was little competition in the marketplace and most of her customers were women. But in the years since then, the customer base and the marketplace have changed significantly.
"Now a lot of men come in for waxing their chest... and to have their eyebrows shaped," she noted, "and we have lots of competition now."
Pollock said she’s confident Giannini will do well. Giannini said she hopes to build on Pollock’s legacy by retaining all of the downtown salon’s dozen or so employees, and by striving to bring new products and services to the city.
She also plans to give the salon’s main floor a makeover to match the one Pollock did on the second floor. The renovation plans are still being worked on, so she’s not sure how much it’s going to cost. But she hopes to have the work completed before the end of this year or by early next year.
The CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone said it’s encouraging to hear The Magic Room will carry on, and that the new owner intends to make further improvements to the business. "Any time there is that type of transition it’s positive," Stefano Grande said. "It brings some positive energy into the downtown."