Martino gets to continue what she loves, in new space
By Ginna Young
That’s the message Lisa Martino wants to impart, as Lisa’s Beauty Salon will be in a new location, as of Monday, Nov. 4. For almost 29 years, customers have stepped through the door at 307 Main St., in Cornell.
“I’ve had some very good memories here, but I’m very excited to step into that next chapter,” said Martino.
Throughout her 39-year career, Martino cites desire, discipline and determination, as the keys to her long-lasting business.
Growing up in Cornell, Martino graduated from high school in 1980, then attended Wisconsin Technical College in Superior, for anatomy and physiology during a 10-month period. She and other students practiced on each other before they “went on the floor.”
After graduating and taking state boards, Martino came back to Cornell, where she looked for a job, but ended up returning to Superior, after someone called her former college, asking if anyone would be interested in a job. Martino’s former instructor gave her student’s name to the woman who called.
As it turned out, the caller had married a man from Cornell.
“I thought that was kind of a small world thing,” said Martino.
Thus began her career as a licensed beautician.
“I felt I was pretty young to be starting out in something I had wanted to be my entire life,” said Martino.
As a newly hired beautician, she was guaranteed $100 each week or a 50 percent commission.
“There were many times I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pay my part of the rent,” said Martino. “But, as I worked, I knew I had to build a clientele in order to make money. And that’s where the discipline part came in – going into work early, staying late, doing that extra mile to accommodate your client. Customer service is huge nowadays, as sometimes, I think it’s forgotten.”
Martino says she also learned a lot from experienced coworkers, living in Superior for four years. After she took the state boards to manage or own her own salon, she moved back to Cornell in 1985, married and started a family – daughters, Jenna and Jayme.
Since then, Martino worked at few a different shops in Cornell, before starting her own salon in 1991. She was seven months along with Jenna at the time. Martino got her start, after she asked a client if she would invest in a new venture. With the affirmative, Martino borrowed $2,000, arranged a payment plan and Lisa’s came into existence.
“And that’s how I started my shop,” said Martino. “I’m not gonna lie. There were times it was pretty tight.”
With limited supplies and furniture, Martino put everything she had into the shop, which meant buying used sinks from a retiring beautician who was about 80 years old.
“I thought, oh my gosh,” said Martino, in shock someone could do hair for that long. “And here I am, I’ve been doing it since I was 19 years old.”
Martino then built up a regular clientele, as evidenced by her almost solidly booked schedule.
“It’s special to grow up in a small town,” said Martino. “They kind of…just take you under their wing. They’re there for you, regardless of what you need. I think that’s important.”
When Martino’s current building went up for sale, she decided it was time for a change and found a new location that suited her needs, and the needs of her clients. Because her customers are very important to her, Martino wanted to ensure the new building was handicapped accessible, with a larger bathroom and adequate parking.
“What you need to do to succeed sometimes, is to go that extra mile,” said Martino.
The 422 Main Street location (on the corner across from the city park) has seen many businesses come and go over the years, including a dealership, machine products business, a bank, then a temporary activity building and, finally, sat empty for the last few years.
It’s been a challenge to convert the building into a salon, according to Martino, but with carpentry help from her husband, Brian, she has turned the place into a bright workspace. The work area will remain basically the same blueprint, but the barber shop will no longer be a separate area.
Martino says she has done well, after taking over the adjoining shop from Denny Klass after he retired a couple years ago.
There will also be a separate area for the tanning unit and pedicure chair, a nice product display, a bigger break room for employees, supply storage and for the first time, central air instead of a wall unit. Martino is also excited for her new laundry room.
“I’ve walked up to the laundromat (few doors up the street) for 28 years, doing towels and I finally have a laundry room,” she said. “I won’t know how to act…” After the last customer departs Saturday, Nov. 2, Martino will complete the move to her new building, bidding goodbye to years of memories. In the past, the smaller space was home to head start, a photography shop, insurance agents and a thrift shop.
One of Cornell’s first families, Uldine and Clarence Hoffman, ran a husband/wife salon and barber shop, with a gunshop in the basement.
“There’s a lot of history in this building right here,” said Martino. “I think it’s one of the oldest in Cornell. I hope somebody will utilize it and turn it into something unique.”
To make sure none of her customers are inconvenienced, Martino arranged for a plumber and electrician to work around the weekend schedule, for the Nov. 4 opening. Martino’s also keeping the phone number the same, so she, and her three part-time stylists (Mariah Litke, Jacci Myers, Amber Walsh), can be easily reached.
Martino says she appreciates all her loyal customers, ages two to 100, and that she couldn’t have made any of her journey without them.
“They’re not just a number to me, they’re my people,” said Martino. “I feel I’m one of the blessed ones, one of the lucky ones, that I get to go to work every day, doing something I love.”