For 15 years, Brian Graham worked tirelessly to ensure the success of his salon in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood. He put in 65-hour workweeks to ensure his employees' success as well as taking on clients of his own.
But at the end of 2020, he closed his salon.
"People assumed I was retiring because I didn't initially announce where I was going," said the 57-year-old Graham. "But this is not gliding into retirement. I love doing hair. I don't see retiring for a long time."
What he wanted to do was retire from his management duties. He announced on the company's website in November that the salon was closing and then put up profiles of his 18 staff members and their future plans so their customers could follow them to their new employers.
Graham now is an independent contractor in a new salon owned by someone else.
Chris Farrell, author of "Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life," thinks Graham made a wise decision.
"He's stripping away what he doesn't like and accenting what he does," Farrell said. "He no longer has to deal with things like payroll, and he can focus on what he likes most — cutting hair."
It's a shift in thinking that many adults begin having with themselves in their 50s and early 60s, Farrell said.
Following is an interview with Graham, edited for length and clarity.
Q: In your note to staff and clients on the website, you mentioned a "feeling of completion" after some soul searching that began around August. Can you explain?
A: When I started the business 15 years ago, I wanted to create a warm, welcoming place for people of all ethnicities and backgrounds that offered clients great customer service and provided the staff with great continuing education. We met those goals so it was time to close this chapter. Why not end on a high note?
Q: Was COVID-19 a factor?
A: It made me do the soul searching about what I wanted to do in the future. Almost 90% of our clients came back [after mandatory closing due to COVID-19], but people are going longer between haircuts and colors. We received some Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants. We were a busy salon. We were making money. The rent stayed the same for the last several years. January and February were our best months ever before COVID. After closing for COVID, we had great months in June, July and September.
Q: Did you consider selling instead of closing?
A: That was a thought. But the sale would have taken more time with contracts and working things out. There was a discussion to sell to members of the team, but I decided not to go that route. Starting a new path was simpler and easier.
Q: What's next for you?
A: Sloane's Beauty Bar opened a new location this month in Cedar Commons in Minneapolis. Two other stylists from my salon and I will be going. I'll be cutting and coloring men's and women's hair.
Q: What led you in that direction?
A: I wanted more mind space to think and dream. As an independent contractor, I can focus more on what I like most, working one-on-one with clients. I have an amazing team. It's hard to leave that, but I wanted more flexibility in my personal time. I always had to be in the salon before. This allows me to focus on my craft, partner, friends, family and myself.
Q: Will you miss being a business owner?
A: What I'm looking forward to is having more free time to spend with family and friends and loved ones. I enjoyed the business side for 15 and a half years. Would I do it again? Yes. It was part of my journey.
Q: You said you knew it was time to slow down or close. What were the signs?
A: I woke up and realized I didn't have the drive that I thought the salon would need to keep it at its best. I felt like I'd met the salon's goals and in order to succeed, the drive has to be there. I didn't want to do the team any injustice. It was time to be done.
Q: Describe how you spent your workday before the move to being an independent contractor.
A: I was behind the chair 30 to 36 hours a week and managing as the owner for another 25 to 30. It was important to always be there at the salon and have a presence there.
Q: You said closing the salon would allow you more freedom, more mind space and time to dream. Would you describe yourself as a dreamer?
A: Very much so. I'm an introvert and I look for peace and solitude. I recharge by being quiet and being able to dream. In our cabin Up North I sit on the end of the dock and just dream.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633