WIP Downtown: Salon combines talented stylist, savvy tech guy 40 percent of appointments are made online

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“That magazine just encourages gossip,” explained co-owner Jeff Demaree.

Contrary to the stereotype of hairdresser as therapist, Demaree wants his staff “to avoid discussing personal problems with customers because it makes the atmosphere more stressful.” Instead, Jeff and his wife, co-owner Kimberly Demaree, suggest discussing current events, politics-if they know they agree with the customer-TV, or recent WIP accomplishments such as photo shoots.

“We want to make people feel good, look good, and leave feeling good,” added Kimberly, “and discussing problems does not make you feel good.”

Too much discussion of the business can be a problem, too, the Demarees have learned. When you are married to your business partner, business talk dominates. It’s hard to avoid falling into this pattern, Jeff said, because “we’re both passionate about it, we both want to do our best and get the best from our staff.” To try to reduce “shop talk,” they have decided Sunday must be free of it. Plus, they now drive to work separately.

Owning a business with your spouse can actually be successful, said Ric Maly, distributor for Michigan-based Maly’s, a wholesale beauty supply company that serves WIP. “What kills a business is greed, and you don’t find that in the family owners,” Maly said. “It’s working extremely well for Kimberly and Jeff, who operate like a right-brain/left-brain combination.”

The Demarees pride themselves on the spacious look of their salon, and their reliance on the Internet.

“We utilize technology more than most salons, with our online appointment schedule and e-mail reminders, plus our e-mail newsletter, StyleLetter,” Jeff said. “Forty percent of our appointments are made online.”

This is Jeff’s part of the business, because of his technology background. With a degree in communications from Indiana University, he has worked in construction, management and sales. He also used to have his own software company, and when that was bought out, it seemed like the right time to start a business. Furthermore, Kimberly-who had worked as a hairdresser for years-had wanted to open her own shop for more than 10 years. After 9/11, they were motivated.

“You only live once,” she said. “Why not risk it?”

It was loyalty from Kimberly’s customers that helped them get started when they rented space from a barber on Vermont Street. “I’ve gotten my hair cut from Kimberly for as long as she has cut hair,” customer Lee Crannell said. “She’s never given me a haircut that I don’t like. They’ve got a great thing going there-very personalized service.”

The Demarees had planned to buy the barbershop, but when the barber decided not to retire, they found their present space on Illinois Street.

A big boost (and pleasant surprise) shortly after opening was being named 2003 Indianapolis’ Favorite Hair Salon by Indianapolis Woman magazine. Business continued to grow; they served 25 clients per week in 2002 and now about 80 per week. Kimberly’s clients are 95 percent return business, and the shop rate for return business is almost 70 percent.

The early problem of getting their name known has become easier. Their main marketing ploy-offering customers a $10 gift card toward a hair product for each customer they send to WIP-has been successful.

Keeping up with trends is part of the fun, Kimberly said. Right now, she’s working with the concept of “recycled” hairstyles: finding more than one way to wear your hair when you leave the salon.

“Kimberly is probably one of the most talented hairdressers I’ve ever dealt with,” said Jill Clontz, an education executive with New York-based Redken, the product line WIP carries. “And Jeff is so smart about the technology part. They get an idea and they go with it. So far, it’s all worked.”

Jeff Demaree, center, and his wife, Kimberly, right, run WIP Downtown, a hair salon located on the second floor above Acapulco Joe’s at the corner of Illinois and Vermont streets. Appointments can be made online.

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