Damage caused relocation since Corner Bar fire
It was smoke saturated for hours and flooded from the main floor and the basement level. Damage to Studio Monroe, 27 Main Street in downtown Rockford was so bad it would be three months before owner Maranda Pell could even set foot inside the building. The burning of the Corner Bar on August 14, 2017 was a terrible loss and a shock to the town, but also for neighboring businesses due to damage to their own properties and difficulty of reaching them with the work of construction going on even now.
She recalls the devastation of the day. “It was even worse because we had the air conditioning on and it pulled the smoke right in.” She said every item in the salon, the walls and other surfaces and all the product were coated in the smoke. Along with that, the wall that connected the building to the Corner Bar was unstable and prevented her from getting anything that could have been saved at that time. While the building was ordered closed, the tools became ruined, so her stylists didn’t even have the means to do their work in their new location immediately. It was a dire situation.
Now, Studio Monroe owner Maranda Pell is happy to be back in her location, carefully and stylishly remodeled and restored since the fire. “We couldn’t even set foot in here until December,” she said of the extensive work the property needed. Studio Monroe is a boutique salon offering manicures and pedicures and other salon favorites, eyelash extensions, spray tans, hair and makeup, wedding services, ear piercing and henna tattoos.
She opened Xscape Salon in 1999 and was branching out with Studio Monroe as her second business enterprise. Due to her goal and desire to grow her business and having limited space at her Xscape Salon, she opened Studio Monroe.
“I really, really like creating jobs,” she stated when asked why she would want to run two salons. Between Studio Monroe and Xscape she provides work for 19 people. Her long tenure in downtown is not the norm, but the result of hard work, resolve, good staff and good luck. “Never underestimate good insurance,” she noted.
She remembers being a young mom in her twenties returning to her business after a long day and settling her son to bed to work on shop business long into the night. It is the non-glorious reality that people don’t realize is part of running your own business—especially during the start up phase.
It is also part of the risk business owners take. You can invest everything: your hopes, money, hours and hours of work, even your youth to making a dream a reality and it all can come crashing down for any number of reasons outside your control. The economy crashes, the world turns to online shopping, or even an out of control fire in a nearby business that shuts you down for months.
In Maranda’s case, good insurance and perseverance kept her afloat through the tough times until her June 1 reopening at Studio Monroe. It is a great relief and shows her tenacity in the face of challenge. The salon was in its “temporary” location longer than it was in its original location, but now all is set to rights as far as the salon is considered. She is right where she wants to be, working hard in her own hometown and offering services customers are happy to find.
The Rockford High School graduate never felt the need to relocated to another community. She loves it here and appreciates the combination of the old and the new that Rockford offers. She said newer businesses, like Studio Monroe, are as important as the older ones, like Xscape. With many salons in many communities, she considers competition a good thing, “It keeps you on your toes. Besides, people are more likely to come here if they know there are choices.” She sees the restaurants in downtown the same way, a reason for people to come in for dining of many choices.
She says she was daunted after the fire caused such disruption in her fledgling business. “It was like twenty years of work down the drain.” But that angst was short lived. “I knew I had to straighten up, put my big girl pants on and get to work.” Ironically, she had briefly allowed herself the satisfaction of being in a good place with her Studio Monroe just before the fire set her back.
Literally the night before the fire, “I had told my husband and kids that I was very happy with the salon, we were right where we wanted to be. The studio was done, the brouchures were printed the pictures were hung. I said this feels so good.” So much for that. But now she is again in a good place, the work nearly done on the building (a wall still needs to be moved to give her back her original square footage on site). Her staff is back at home and taking care of customers and there is a rosy future for the salon.
“I feel blessed and lucky to be a woman living in America and to have a choice and resources to own your own business.” She said the support of her family also has made all this possible. Her son is now 14, and has known her as a business owner his whole life. Her daughter, Monroe, is four and is the reason her salon is named Studio Monroe. “People don’t think about it, I’m on Main Street but my studio is Monroe. That’s why.” Finally, her staff is the backbone of the salon. “It wouldn’t be feasable without my staff, they are amazing.”
The studio is open Monday from 1 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 to 4 p.m. and closed Sunday. Their phone number is 616-884-0885.
Stop by and congratulate Maranda and her staff for their newly opened location and for sticking with it despite a tough start for Studio Monroe. She’s glad she didn’t give up and she’s glad she decided to be an entrepreneur back in the late 90s when she took a chance.
During life lessons Maranda often tells herself, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”