Story and Photos by Kaitlin Hill
Flooded with natural light and a pop of millennial pink, The Painted Mane Salon in The Plains feels like stepping into a trendy Instagram post. The building’s original wood floor and soaring ceilings add character, while owner Nicole Adair’s Pinterest-inspired décor gives the space an updated and sleek appearance.
But it isn’t only the salon’s aesthetic that is picture-perfect, it’s Adair’s mastery of her craft, her investment in her employees, her love for her community, and her ambition for the future that will keep her business trending for years to come.
“I didn’t know I wanted to do hair,” Adair admits. “But long story short, I had to have surgery on my leg, and while I was on medical leave, a couple of friends told me I should check out Paul Mitchell in Tyson’s Corner. So, I went, and after my first walkthrough I looked at my mom and said, ‘I need to sign up right now.’” Adair started her 10-month program in September 2011, and by August 2012, after graduating and passing her boards, she landed her first salon job.
After five years in the field, Adair was ready to strike out on her own, and her business settled in Warrenton.“I really wanted to go out and do my own thing,” Adair says. “I ventured out, found a little space, was there for about a month, and then ended up at my mom’s house for a month. I looked in Middleburg, but couldn’t find anything in my price point, and then a place popped up in Warrenton.
It was little — 500 square feet — we started off with two chairs. It was just me and my girlfriend, Christy.” She named her little Warrenton shop “The Painted Mane,” referencing her signature technique.
“I’ve always loved to call my clients’ hair their ‘manes,’ those long, luscious, locks,” she says. “And I am really into ‘Balayage,’ which is the French word for ‘freehand painting,’ which is where the painted part came from. So, The Painted Mane was born. All I do is paint hair all day and we’re literally in horse country, so it just worked out.”
Though Adair and her co-workers offer their expertise in a range of services from Keratin treatments to hand-tied extensions, Balayage is Adair’s specialty. “I am all about giving women that lived-in color look,” she says. “And it means instead of coming in every six to eight weeks for highlight retouch or color retouch, you’re now stretching to a 12-plus-week service. Your color’s longevity is so much more.”
In May, she moved her operation under the same name to The Plains to accommodate an expanding team and contribute to a community close to her heart. “When there were three of us, we quickly realized we were outgrowing the space and decided we needed to find a bigger location,” she says.
Her new digs, just off Main Street, certainly has space to spread out and allow her co-workers to be their own bosses. “The great thing is, in this space, I can rent my chairs to my girls,” she says. “That way, they can be their own bosses. They set their own hours. We have kids, we have families, we have lives outside of here, and I wanted them to have the freedom to do that. So, I have the station set up, so everyone has their own area.”
Coincidentally, the new spot’s roominess has facilitated the salon’s continued operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. “May 15. It wasn’t only the day that Fauquier County opened back up; it was actually the day we opened our doors for the first time,” she says. “So, it was definitely nerve-wracking. Though, you’ll notice that everybody isn’t on top of each other and we are all, naturally, 6 feet apart. So, it’s funny. That was our plan to set it up that way and then [the pandemic] happened and I was like, ‘Well look at that; we don’t have to do anything.’”
With the recommended 6 feet separation built in, the team at The Painted Mane can cut and color hair comfortably with a few CDC considerations. “Every 20 minutes we are having to sterilize our stations, and every two hours we clean the bathrooms, all the door handles, whatever surface somebody sat on,” she says.
In part, the staff’s rigorous cleaning routine is because of their long client list, which has kept them busy. “We have people that come from all over — Loudoun County, Fairfax, way out in Culpepper and Winchester,” she says.
And though their clients are from all over, Adair is proud to be a part of The Plains’ tight-knit community. “I am super excited about being here, and The Plains needs a salon,” she says. “They’ve never had a full-blown salon. Everyone is super down to earth, super loving, and super welcoming. When I posted in “The Plains Uncensored” [Facebook group], I would say almost every single business owner private messaged me directly and was so excited for me. This is what a community is, and I think we have finally found our forever home.”
With just two months under her belt in the new location, Adair isn’t shy about planning for forever in The Plains. She shares her vision of featuring local artists’ works on her walls and acquiring a nearby cottage for expanded spa services.
“I would love to have an aesthetician,” she says. “I want to be a full-service salon, anything from facials to lashes, possibly microblading … I’m surrounded by boss people and people that are super ambitious. I am always setting goals, and I am always in competition with myself to do better.”
With killer skills, a talented team, success in the middle of a pandemic, and the support of her community, it’s hard to imagine room for Adair to do better when she is already doing so well. ML
This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.