by Sasha Braithwaite
photos by Monika Wertman
According to zodiac description, Sagittarians are independent and adventurous people who have many ideas that lead them to be accepting of change. So when Marsha Knicley-Masood built her Sagittarius Salon and Spa empire named after her own zodiac sign, these traits became a manifestation shown through the growing and successful business that it is today.
Marsha is described by her daughter and Sagittarius coowner, Jordon Knicley, as being someone who lives and breathes cosmetology. Her passion and drive took her from 900 square feet of space, two employees and a couple of chairs, and grew into the state-of-the-art business that it is today—a salon, spa and boutique all in one location. Located in the Galleria in Hagerstown, Md., stepping inside is like stepping into a booming city salon with its creative lighting, décor and architecture along with customer service that exceeds expectations.
When Marsha opened the salon in 1973, her first goal was to give her customers the best service as well as keeping them up-to-date with the latest trends in hair color and design. Her consistency in this effort and commitment to hard work gave her a reputation that kept her business and clientele expanding.
“When she first started the business, she would work 12 hours every day on top of having two children,” Jordon says regarding her mother.s work ethic. “She was here every day, all day, and then her clients would call her and be like, ‘Could you stop by my house on the way home to do a styling for me?. and she would do it. She did anything she could do to make sure people were happy with her work and how she did things.”
Marsha.s dream was always to have her own building for her salon and create the design and architecture that she wanted. When her business grew too large for where she was operating at that time, she decided to become partners with plastic surgeon Dr. Henry Garazo, and they built the Galleria in 2005, a mini plaza that houses both of their businesses as well as LJ.s and the Kat lounge. The modern style and architecture she had wanted now adorns the salon, spa and boutique that make Sagittarius the powerhouse that it is today.
The Salon itself is spacious and well-lit with 14 styling stations, twelve color/chemical stations, plasma screen televisions, a color and formulating lab and a coffee bar for guests in addition to several other impressive features. Upon entrance, guests are greeted warmly and helpfully by the front desk receptionists, and to avoid any interruptions in customer service, both in person or over the phone, there is a small call center in the salon.s mezzanine to ensure each potential customer gets undivided attention and service.
When the salon was built in the Galleria, spas were becoming more popular, and since they are uncommon in this area, Marsha decided to include the Sanctuary Spa inside the salon. The spa is dimly lit with a relaxing atmosphere that one would expect to find in an upscale spa. There is a relaxation area for clients to wait for their services and enjoy a cup of tea. There is a small locker room with robes and slippers for guests, two massage rooms, two aesthetic rooms for services such as facials, and two showers. All services are provided by a licensed massage therapist.
The newest addition to the salon is “S the Boutique,” which Jordon considers to be her baby of the business. Jordon graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College where she studied graphic design and business. After graduation, she moved to Manhattan where she worked for the CNN Television Graphics team, so she would often bring accessories she liked from New York back home to her mother.s salon during the Christmas season, and the items sold very well. However, after the events of 9/11, Jordon left New York and began working for Aveda Corporation which eventually brought her closer to home working in Washington D.C. She worked as a territory manager responsible for showing 50-60 salons Aveda products and how to best sell them.
She essentially taught salons how to market and advertise their products and services and helped them grow. It was through that position that she learned the ins and outs of how a salon should operate—what worked and what did not.
It was not until 10 years ago that Jordon finally returned home to Hagerstown to help her mother run the salon at its new location. She helped to develop the website and came up with promotions, ideas and marketing methods for growing the business. She became the Vice President and Director of Marketing and Advertisement at Sagittarius, and since her mother.s retirement four years ago, she is now the leading lady of the business. About six years ago, she opened the boutique, and just as Sagittarius is known to do, it brought something new to the area and offered more contemporary and trendy fashion items.
The staff at Sagittarius is consistently educated and updated on their skills. Educators from all of their distributors come four to five times a year to hold classes that are often 8- 10 hours long. These educators bring in the best trends and teach the staff how to incorporate them into their services.
“Continuing education is really up there with making sure that everyone is learning constantly,” Jordon says. “Because if you don.t continue to learn, you just kind of stay the same—you just stay average. I want everyone to be comfortable doing everything.” It is this constant evolution in trends that has helped set Sagittarius apart from other salons. Marsha wanted to bring something to the area that most people had never experienced. Despite living in a small town, Jordon says that the staff is confidently trained on a city-salon level with how they do things. They have clients who drive from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pennsylvania and West Virginia just to receive their more progressive and trendy styles.
“You don.t have to travel to the city to get color that looks like you did, so I think that.s how my mom came in to this business, and that was her number one reason for opening something,” Jordon says. “She wanted to bring what everybody else sees [in media outlets] to Hagerstown, and I think people appreciated that, and that.s what really started setting it off to become so popular. Just because you.re in a small town doesn.t mean you have to think small minded.”
With all of this growth and success, Sagittarius makes a devoted effort to give back to the community. Marsha started her own non-profit organization called Life is a Gift which raises money for women struggling with cancer. Every March they hold a Sunday devoted specifically to making these women feel beautiful and encouraged as they go through their journey. All of the staff comes in from 12 to 3 p.m. and give complimentary haircuts, make-up applications, scalp treatments and hand massages to women who have cancer, are going through chemotherapy or who have survived the disease. Local businesses donate food and drinks and raffle items. Myerly and Lowe Photography takes photos of the women and then donates the portraits to them. Usually 100 to 300 women show up for the event.
“A lot of women look forward to it every year because they get to see other women who they may have gone through chemo with, or women they.ve become friends with here,” Jordon says. “It.s really for them to come in and have a day that.s just about them that they don.t have to worry about, and it.s also people who are here who have gone through the same thing as one another, so you can find them off in the corner talking about something or relying on one another to help them through the process. It.s very rewarding and they.re so thankful that we do it every year.”
Sagittarius is also involved in contributing to Alex.s Lemonade Stand, which raises money for children with cancer. Every August before school starts, they give haircuts to kids for a minimum donation of $10. All proceeds go to Alex.s Lemonade Stand, and this past year they raised about $3,000.
Sagittarius has several awards to back up their credentials. Marsha is part of Intercoiffure, the most prestigious organization in the beauty industry. Members must be asked to be in it, and only a small percentage of salons are part of it.
They look at people who have created a strong business and are phenomenal stylists. The salon has also won several awards in Salon Today, a national magazine. They have won in areas of education, philanthropy, growth, marketing, advertisement and they placed in the top 10 salons in the country.
“I just continue to grow [my mother.s] dream,” Jordon says of her role at Sagittarius. “It.s a fun industry. You.re not sitting behind a desk all day. You.re interacting with people. But at the same time, you have to have a vision of what you want to do. You can.t goof off and not take things seriously if you want to be successful.”
For more information on services and pricing, visit www.sagittariussalon.com, or call 301-797-8008. Appointments are encouraged.