by Sandra Yeyati
Fifteen years ago, Marsha Power was depressed. Seven of her employees at Garbo, A Salon & Spa, had died of AIDS. Both of her parents, several uncles and even her dog had died, too. When her long-term romantic relationship ended, she felt like she had lost it all. “I broke,” she says. “I became hopeless.”
Then a friend suggested that she try meditation. Power explains, “I went to a class out of pure boredom, had absolutely no interest. My heart was very heavy, and this lady told us to get into this quiet place of silence. I had never ever shut off my brain. She said, ‘If you can hear the car honking outside, you’re not there; if you can hear the wind blow, you’re not there.’ Then all of a sudden, I got into this space, and there was nothing.” Power’s heart started vibrating. “It was like I was in love, and I was high for three days,” she says.
From that moment, Power started a daily meditation practice that sustains her to this day. Her spirituality has blossomed, and she has explored and expanded her prosperity consciousness, too. She now shares what she has learned with her employees, her customers and the Austin community.
Offering hair, makeup, nail, waxing and facial treatment services, Garbo has been in business since 1984 and for the last four years has been named one of the top 200 national salons by Salon Today. It is also a designated Aveda Lifestyle Salon, which means that it is a leading retailer of their organically derived beauty products.
And yet, as far as Power is concerned, her employees— the hairdressers—are the salon’s most special asset. “They have chosen to follow, love and respect me, allowing me to guide and mentor them,” she says. “I hold a higher presence of love for them and teach them that they can be very successful in this world by being a hairdresser. It is an honorable profession.”
Power encourages her employees and gives them classes on a variety of topics like how to buy a car, meditation techniques and how to protect their bodies from injury. “We work hard,” she says. “Eight to 10 hours, five days a week is hard. I did it for decades, and that’s why I want to take care of them. I’m like their grandmother. If I can help them in any way, I will.”
Power also teaches a class called Build the Book at the local Aveda school to newly graduating hairdressers and barbers. When young stylists are just starting out, they don’t realize that new and returning clients are hard to come by. Power teaches them how to build a clientele. “It’s a service to my industry and I love it,” she says.
Following the principles she teaches, Power’s salon has a thriving and loyal client base. “If you come into my store, I greet you. Nine times out of 10, I’ll know your name. If I don’t, I call you darling. I serve everybody organic coffee, tea or water. It’s like I’m welcoming somebody into my home.”
It’s the personal touch that makes a difference, Power says. “We engage with our hearts, and I think that, more than anything else, engages a client. They want to do business with somebody that they know, and we listen to people and have compassion for them.”
Always looking to improve the quality of their service, the salon has a short questionnaire on their website that asks clients about their hair preferences and goals, which helps Garbo stylists provide the most customized and responsive service. “I learn things about clients that it used to take me two years to learn the other way,” Power says.
Last year, the salon contributed to more than 25 charities, donating money, time and gift baskets to worthy causes. They also teach hairstyling and makeup techniques to teenage girls at the Ann Richards School and a local school for the blind. “I do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Power says.
In the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote, “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” At Garbo, A Salon & Spa, Power has done just that.