Artisan 2 (formerly Douglas Hair Studio) is celebrating 25 Years in business and owner Deirdre Walsh has been at the helm for all of it, guiding the business through good times and bad, towards this wonderful milestone.
Artisan 2 hasn’t always been what you see now at their gorgeous premises in Donnybrook, Douglas. To discover how the brand has built up to be what it is today, we go back to Deirdre’s time starting out in the hair industry.
Deirdre, or Dee as she prefers to be called, hails from Ballincollig and her introduction to the world of hair was somewhat of an accident. “When I started growing into my teens”, Dee explains, “I wanted to start getting my hair cut in a salon. When we were kids, my mum’s friend used to call to the house to cut our hair, but I wanted a change as I started growing up. Of course, I didn’t have the money to be going to salons as a teenager, so I heard that Peter Mark in the city were looking for models to train their staff at cutting, colouring etc, so I willingly signed up. Week after week, I became more and more fascinated with the process as the staff were training on my hair and I finally asked could I get a place training with them”.
Thankfully, Dee was invited to join as a trainee and she began to learn the basics of the trade. “I was hooked quickly - I knew this was the career path for me”, says Dee, “at the time I was growing more and more frustrated with school, it just wasn’t motivating me and so, I left just before I turned 16 and jumped full-time into training, firstly with Terry O’Connellin Douglas and then again with Peter Mark.”
So successful a transition was it for Dee, who jumped at every opportunity to learn with the organisation over the next few years that followed, that she herself went on to become a trainer for Peter Mark, working over time between their shop in the Savoy, Merchants Quay SC, Winthrop Street and Douglas. “I grew to love working with people,” she says, “for me it was never going to be a desk job, I just loved the liveliness of the hair industry.”
As Dee was learning and qualifying in the early 90’s, it was a seminal time in the industry. “There was a fantastic colour revolution, is how I’d explain it,” says Dee, “it was a wonderful time to be learning and with all the change and advances in the industry at the time, there were some great opportunities, it was an amazing time to be a young stylist.
That sense of opportunity had something in store for Dee, as in February 1995 aged just 26, she opened her first business - Douglas Hair Studio.
“The timing was right,” she says, “and I was either going to apply for management or open my own business, I wanted to have more input in my clients in-salon experience, so I decided to have a go and open Douglas Hair Studio. I was lucky that in my time with Peter Mark, I had built up a good client base and the majority of them came with me to the new salon.”
“At the time of opening, I needed finance to kit the place out and I was initially refused by the bank” she says “But, for me failure never even entered my head, and I found a newly opened bank in Macroom and pitched to them for a loan”. Dee says the meeting went so well that only did she secure the loan, she also acquired the bank manager and his family as clients!
Upon opening, Dee hired Audrey, who is still with her to this day and Maresa who worked with her for 14 years.
Those first few years through the late 90’s and early 2000’s, an exciting time for Ireland as a whole, were a whirlwind for Dee and the team as the salon grew and succeeded.
In 2004, needing a re-brand and a freshen up, Dee relaunched as ARTISAN @Douglas Hair Studio. ‘It was time to give the place a new look and change,” says Dee, “Over two crazy days and nights the construction team completely turned the premises around, literally working all night to have it ready for the launch”, she says. It was not only an important business milestone, but will remain memorable for Dee as she went into labour with her fourth child at the launch.
During the booming Celtic Tiger years that followed, Dee had 15 staff at one point and the salon was always busy. Dee pulled in help where needed, her mum looking after accounts and as her young family was growing up, Dee hired salon managers as she worked reduced days.
Like so many businesses in Ireland, Dee and the team at Artisan went through tough times once the crash came in 2008. As money drained out of the economy, Artisan’s revenues dropped by 45%. “People, understandably, were extending the times between their visits, colouring their own hair at home, etc.”, says Dee. That drop would’ve spelled the end for many businesses, and if that wasn’t difficult enough, just before the crash came, Dee had opened a second salon – Artisan 2, initially in Parkgate. “For a time I worked 6 days a week, 4 days in Artisan Douglas and 2 days in Frankfield, it was full on! “
So now, with 18 staff between the two premises and an economy sinking, Dee had to face what seemed like an insurmountable challenge. “Martina, who managed our Frankfield salon and Audrey, who managed the Douglas salon, were there all the way with me. It takes a team but a team with strong leadership to last the test of time.”
“It was a big struggle for a few years,” she explains, “there were often weeks when I wasn’t able to pay myself and we only barely scraped by in paying staff”.
But for all that Dee’s resilience held strong and in March 2014, Artisan 2 moved to their present location in Donnybrook.
‘When pay-parking came into effect in Douglas, 18 on street businesses closed or, like us, relocated in two years,” explains Dee. So, with the huge drop off in clients in Artisan I Douglas village, Dee made the decision to close that salon and focus solely on Artisan 2 in Donnybrook.
2014 – Now
Dee and the team’s loyal client base followed them to Donnybrook and have been keeping the salon growing since. ‘We are all so deeply appreciative of our clients, says Dee, “Thank You to everyone who supports us, we genuinely wouldn’t be here without them. I love seeing the clients that have been coming to me for years, and I equally love meeting new clients and welcoming back returning clients.
Dee’s staff, too, are a key part of the business’s successful march to 25 years in existence. “We are a training focused salon, says Dee. “I’m passionate about training and I do our weekly training evenings with our trainees. As a Wella Elite Salon, Wella regularly send down Ireland’s most Elite stylists and educators to upskill and train all the team I think with good training, hard work and passion we create a happy salon for both staff and clients. I look for integrity in my staff and when you have good people around, we all have fun. I would like to sincerely thank my amazing team.”
Always a strong local employer, Artisan 2 currently has 9 staff and Dee says that many of her former staff have gone on to open their own salons. “I’m so proud of our former staff that have branched out and opened their own businesses, it’s great to see”, she says.
Artisan 2 has won many accolades over the years, including being the Irish Winner of the esteemed Signature De Service award - Awarded as Ireland’s leading salon in customer care.
With the 25 year milestone now marked, Dee and the team at Artisan 2 will continue to lead the way in delivering the highest standards in the hair industry.
All of us at The Carrigdhoun Newspaper and the local business community as a whole wish Artisan 2 every success in the future – here’s to the next 25 years.