Meet the Former Marine-Turned-Salon-Owner and Philanthropist

raffle[Image: Courtesy of A’salonna Salon and Spa]The mechanical engineer is now fighting for a new cause. 

Ernie Shores, owner of A’salonna Salon and Spa, An Aveda Concept Salon, in Stillwater, Minnesota, laughs as he admits that he never actually aspired to own a salon. In fact, the 57-year-old former Marine was a mechanical engineer by trade when his daughter suggested he buy the ailing salon where she worked as a stylist. He decided to go for it. “I didn’t realize I’d enjoy it so much,” he reports four years after signing the paperwork. Now, as a new spa proprietor, he’s constantly envisioning fund-raising events to give back to local causes and charities.

What changes did you make when you bought A’salonna?

I gave myself eight months to turn the business around financially, but I did it in just four. We increased annual sales by 18% the first year, and 22% the second year. Just as importantly, I initiated a signature event, Perfectly Pink, which now takes place every October and benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The whole community gets involved. We have raffles and drawings, and local businesses donate dozens of items for the silent auction. Last year we raised almost $3,000. This past April, we also participated in Earth Month. We held a raffle, plus a series of specials on haircuts and retail products such as limited edition Earth Month candles. The outcome was incredible: We raised $3,400 and the money went directly to the Audubon Society’s Audubon Mississippi River Initiative. It felt so amazing to impact a local cause— the St. Croix River is literally right outside our door. Some of the money also went to the Global Greengrants Fund, which helps build wells in India that provide fresh water for women and children.

As a beauty professional, why do you feel it’s important to help your community?

Donating to a cause is very moving; it gives us the reassurance and the satisfaction that comes with actually making a difference. There are a lot of beautiful people who are going through some real challenges in life. Our Perfectly Pink event truly empowers us because we’re not only supporting the people who are battling cancer but also the people around them, the ones they love. It’s a stress on anybody and any family.

Why is philanthropy within the beauty industry so critical?

It’s so important, I would even go as far as to say it’s a necessity to make the effort to reach out to your coworkers and your neighbors, and be involved in your community. It’s crucial to let your clients—people who come in and spend their hard-earned money on your services— know that you care. We want to make sure everyone understands that when the community hurts, we hurt. When the waterways hurt, we’re going to hurt. We chose these causes because they need to be seen. We’re not just here to take, we’re here to give back too, for the long haul.

How often do you personally get in there and style some hair yourself?

I touch nobody! I’m a repair guy, a maintenance guy. You tell me whatever you need done, but that’s as far as I go!

– by Leslie Lang

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