Even though there is a large front window at Bella Rouge, the south anchor of the retail strip between Rumsey and Airdrie on Millwood, it isn’t until you walk in the door that you realize what a light-filled delight this hair salon is.
It was that light, airy atmosphere that most attracted Rhona McDonald nine years ago when she came to what was then the Bayview Clipper, which was on the market. Rhona, who had rented a chair in various neighbourhood salons for a number of years, decided that “for once in my life” she was going to go out on her own – and she did! Her daughter, Michelle McDonald, agreed to sign on as salon manager – receptionist, buyer, interior designer (her actual training)…everything but hair. Most unusual for a hair salon, there isn’t one picture of styled hair on the walls. But if you have art for display? That’s another story.
Rhona grew up in what was then Rhodesia. Every week, she accompanied her mother to her standing Saturday morning hair appointment. The owner suggested she might want to become a student of his, she agreed and has never looked back. One thing she retains is her mother’s advice: “Don’t ever become one of those temperamental hairdressers – always be friendly and kind.”
She married a Canadian, who, she says, “promised her the Rockies, and gave her Lake Ontario,” and whom he describes as “his African souvenir.” Their daughter, Michelle, started spending time with her mother in whatever salon she worked at from the time she was small. She remembers being taught to greet customers politely as they came in the door. That certainly trained her well for her current role as receptionist.
Rhona hired Manush, the salon’s artistic director, four years ago, when she was introduced courtesy of a mutual friend. They clicked, and now Manush is also part of the team.
A neighbourhood gem
This is definitely a neighbourhood salon – parking on the street, bike rack a future possibility, cookies, and water by the outside door for passing dogs. There is also an extensive beverage selection: an espresso machine, 17 different teas, hot chocolate for cooler weather.
Some customers have been following Rhona around for years – others are new to this location, but men, women, children – all are welcome. They are also coming to a salon that is working hard to be “green.” Hair colour is ammonia-free, for instance.
The neighbourliness extends to their new tenant, “Absolute Beauty by Jess,” whom they acknowledge with her name on the large front window.
In Michelle’s words, “team work makes the dream work.” And no, much as I enjoyed talking with Rhona, Michelle and Manush, I am not a client – I have been following my own hairdresser around for years.
Bella Rouge Salon & Spa is located at 864 Millwood.