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How Five Community-Owned Businesses Were Bolstered with Cares Act Money – BeautifulLea Hair Salon

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MY SALON Suite— BeautifulLea Hair Salon
MY SALON Suite— BeautifulLea Hair Salon, Photos by George Hunter

Businesswoman Lea Harwell said her business has been subject to ebb and flow since the onset of the pandemic some 16 months ago. Although she prides herself on having an “always prepared” mentality, being shut down for five weeks and then having to make operational concessions to COVID took a considerable financial toll.

She said the thousands of dollars in COVID grant money she received helped compensate for the weeks of no income. The veteran cosmetologist dipped into her own finances for business expenses during that time, then used some of the grant money to replenish her rainy-day stash.

She also utilized the help to get masks and additional safety supplies and institute cleaning measures. Then there were operational and scheduling changes that chewed away at her former income level.

“I work longer hours to do the same number of people because I’m not seeing two people at the same time,” Harwell said. She occupies a one-room suite with three chairs at the MY SALON SuiteBeautiful Hair Salon and said in pre-COVID times she could have a client in one chair undergoing a color processing while simultaneously giving a haircut in the other. That’s not possible now.

On the other hand, she allows that having an individual room instead of working as part of a larger open salon has been a plus.

In addition to the limitation on people, additional costs have come with completely sanitizing her room between clients and keeping mask and cleaning supplies on hand for her and for customers who want to feel more comfortable.

That has made her more adaptable, she inferred. “You can’t cut hair very well around a mask,” she said, although if clients insist on a covering, she can find a workaround.

She’s gone the extra mile on Zoom to help clients who are even more ultra-cautious. Harwell said several who have feared venturing out have asked her to jump on a video call with her so they can trim a friend’s or partner’s bangs or clean up a bit around their ears.

She’s willing to do that, but couples it with a cautionary note. “I tell them I will try to help, but I can’t take any responsibility for what you do with your untrained hands.” As she noted, “I have doing this for 40 years.”

Providing what could be termed “tele-haircuts” is a second manner in which she’s had to be nimble since COVID reached pandemic levels last year. Harwell said there are other examples as well.

Take what happened at the end of the five-week shutdown, for example. “I remember the day the governor was doing his press conference. He made the announcement at 4:00, and at 4:01 my phone started blowing up. That day was a scramble, and everyone wanted to be back,” Harwell recalled.

She said that after initial rush, business tapered off. A couple of roller-coaster cycles followed, including a drop-off last July and August. Now her business has settled into a groove that’s about 80% of the pre-pandemic level.

A couple of ancillary factors have brightened the picture. “Our owners were very generous to us,” she said. Although they had to keep up with payments to their landlords, lease payments from individual salon tenants were waived during the time that they were not able to be open, she explained.

Harwell also cited working for a number of years in sales and marketing, which she pursued until coming back to the haircutting business some 13 years ago. “I can get out there and find business,” she said confidently. “If business falls off, I just don’t wait for something to happen. I need to work, and I want to work.”

For now, she’s playing it conservatively, using her much-appreciated help to rebuild her savings while keeping her fingers crossed that cases don’t spike again to the point that another shutdown is required. She’s still in recovery mode, financially.

Harwell said she thinks Governor Brian Kemp has done what he can to keep small businesses going during the pandemic and added that she’s eternally grateful that Georgia is not in the same boat as California, where she said stylists weren’t allowed to work for a year.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier

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Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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North American Properties Revitalizes Avenue East Cobb

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North American Properties (NAP) has revamped the Avenue East Cobb shopping center in Marietta, boosting its appeal to suburban residents.
The Andrews Brothers performing at Avenue East Cobb via Instagram @avenueeastcobb

North American Properties (NAP) has revamped the Avenue East Cobb shopping center in Marietta, boosting its appeal to suburban residents seeking a more urban lifestyle. Now, it’s being honored as part of the Atlanta Business Chronicle‘s “Best in Atlanta Real Estate” coverage.

NAP is known for transforming properties like Atlantic Station, Colony Square and The Forum.

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the redevelopment involved demolishing part of the main building to build a public plaza with a stage surrounded by restaurant patios.

A new concierge facility was also added, including a canopy for drop-offs. Additionally, smaller retail buildings were created for standalone tenants. The business mix was updated to include names like Warby Parker, Lululemon and Peach State Pizza.

NAP also increased community engagement by partnering with at least 10 local organizations for social events. These efforts have proven successful. Over the last two years, Avenue East Cobb has seen a 36% increase in sales per square foot thanks to a major rise in foot traffic.

More news from North American Properties can be found here.

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North American Properties Secures 3 New Brands for The Forum

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North American Properties (NAP) and Nuveen Real Estate announced three new businesses are planting flags at The Forum Peachtree Corners.
Sucré – A Sweet Boutique

North American Properties (NAP) and Nuveen Real Estate announced three new businesses coming to The Forum Peachtree Corners (The Forum). The new brands include Kendra Scott, Sucré, and The NOW Massage.

“We’re excited to keep expanding our merchandising mix with more experiential concepts that motivate guests to extend their time on property. In addition to these new leases, several tenants are on track to open over the next few months, and we can’t wait to see the impact,” said Brooke Massey, director of leasing at NAP.

Here are the latest deals to be signed at The Forum:

Kendra Scott ­­– Known for its plethora of accessories and customizable Color Bar experience, jewelry brand Kendra Scott blends classic designs with modern sophistication. Kendra Scott jewelry celebrates individuality and self-expression.

The growing brand has also donated over $50 million to local, national and international causes since its launch in 2010. The 2,284-square-foot space, situated next to Lovesac, opens later this spring, marking the retailer’s fourth location in the NAP portfolio.

Sucré – Founded in New Orleans, Sucré is a gourmet patisserie known for its macarons, gelato and other handmade, French-inspired desserts.

The sweet boutique will occupy a 1,718-square-foot space on the north end of the property and is slated to open later this year. Georgia is the brand’s first out-of-state venture, with The Forum being its third metro Atlanta location and eighth overall.

The NOW Massage – This brand is helping people discover the healing benefits of massage therapy.

The customizable menu offers guests three signature massage styles and a variety of exclusive enhancements like Deep Tissue, Herbal Heat Therapy, Hemp Calm Balm, Gua Sha, Gliding Cupping and more. Located near Mojito’s, the 2,414-square-foot massage boutique debuts late summer. 

These businesses join:

 Alloy Personal Training (opening this month),
Cookie Fix (open),
Gallery Anderson Smith (opening this month),
Giulia (opening this spring),
Lovesac (open),
Nando’s Peri-Peri (coming winter 2024), and
Stretchlab (open).

Since acquiring the property in March 2022, NAP has executed 39 deals with new, existing and temporary tenants alike.

To stay up to date on the latest happenings at The Forum, follow on Facebook Instagram, and X or visit theforumpeachtree.com.

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