With salon services on hold, business finds new home on Main Street

With salon services on hold, business finds new home on Main Street

Brittney Lemieux hopes she’ll be able to reopen her salon, BL Beauty, in a new space in the former Heritage Coffee Shop some time in June. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – It’s been two months since Brittney Lemieux, owner of BL Beauty, has seen her clients at her former salon on South Main Street.

In that time, she said, she’s received calls almost daily from anxious customers wanting to know when they’ll be able to return. Lemieux, who follows the governor’s press conferences closely and belongs to online forums with other salon owners, always has the same response: “You’ll know when I know.”

Despite the anxiety, she said, the extended closure has been “a blessing in disguise.” The North Smithfield resident has used the time to outfit a new salon space at 66 Main St., the former Heritage Coffee Shop, effectively doubling the footprint of the business and, for the first time, creating a salon that was completely her own.

“It was just a completely empty space, which for somebody like me was really exciting. I had envisioned what I wanted a salon to look like,” she said.

Lemieux said she began planning the move earlier this year, long before COVID-19 shut down businesses across the state. The standalone brick structure on Main Street’s southern end drew her in with its history and downtown location. Known as “Lee’s Block,” the structure has been vacant since the departure of Heritage Coffee Shop several years ago, but Lemieux said recent renovations left her with a “blank canvas” to put her ideas in action. The space also came with ample parking in the municipal lots on either side of the building, something her South Main Street location lacked.

In March, with the threat of coronavirus spreading throughout the state, Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered all salons and other close-contact businesses to close. For many, that would have been the end of plans to relocate, but Lemieux, who described herself as a person of faith, said she knew she had to move forward.

“As an entrepreneur, I’m used to the unknown,” she explained. “You don’t start a business without fear and a lot of hope, and that is how I approach reopening.”

It’s not the first time she’s had to start from scratch. A former employee of Citizens Bank, she left her corporate job at the age of 34 to attend cosmetology school and pursue her dream of opening a salon. Two years into the venture, she’s built up a solid customer base and is looking forward to reconnecting with her clients once she’s able to reopen.

Though state officials had not yet released formal guidelines for salons to reopen as of last week, Lemieux said she’s outfitted the new space according to what she expects those guidelines to look like. Salon chairs are spaced six feet apart, and retail shelves will likely remain empty for the time being. Photographs of the ocean, taken by Lemieux while on vacation in Hawaii, dot the walls, bringing a sense of calm to the building.

“I want to create an atmosphere where people feel welcome and comfortable,” she said.

State officials also have not yet released a date for salons to reopen, but Lemieux said she’s hopeful she’ll be seeing clients by mid-June. In the meantime, she’s directing customers to check the salon’s website at www.blbeautyri.com or social media pages for updates.