Noelle Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Stamford, Connecticut, has always been ahead of the curve, introducing the less affluent to services like herbal wraps, hot-stone massage, water therapy treatments and European facials more than 45 years ago. Peter de Caprio kept the business going after his wife, day spa pioneer Noel, lost her 14-year battle with cancer in 1998. Noel was a force of nature, who didn’t let cancer slow her down. After a devastating fire in 1995, she was adamant that her 75 employees would not be out of work and was open for business in a vacant storefront the next day. After consulting with a Feng shui expert, Noel opened a new 15,000 square-foot space with a peaceful Southwestern vibe that offered everything from private meditation, Reiki and acupuncture to haircuts and color.
Peter and Noel’s lives changed drastically in 1998 when Noel met a 10-year-old boy named Jason at a street fair in Saugatuck. At the time his mother was not in the picture and he was living in poverty with his grandfather. Jason recognized in Noel a kindred spirit, and when she invited him to come home with her for a hot meal and a shower—with his grandfather’s approval—he took her up on her offer. Ultimately Peter and Noel raised Jason, and while they never formally adopted him, he took their surname when he became 18.
Today both Peter and Jason, who followed in his mother’s footsteps and became a hairdresser, are part of a steering committee that keeps the ship moving in the right direction. “When my mother was alive, it was like we were a monarchy and she was the queen,” says Jason. “My father came up with the idea of a steering committee after my mother died, which was a radical departure in business management.” Jason can see the pros and cons of both arrangements. “For me it represents a departure from a way of doing business that is slowly disappearing. Nowadays everyone wants to have a say in whether or not the towels need to be folded. It’s more democratic this way, but also less efficient. Sometimes you need someone in charge to say that the towels need to be folded and you have to do it.”
For his part, Peter was happy to concede absolute power to a group of people rather than make all the decisions himself. “I have a very good group of people here,” he says. “I really love them.”
“My father wants people to identify problems for themselves and execute solutions on their own,” says Jason. “He wants people to tell him where they want to go and how they intend to get there, but I still think there are some people who need guidance and direction. That’s where I’m conflicted.” Jason admits that it was interesting watching his parents approach decision making from very different perspectives. “My father was a cabinetmaker. He loves remodeling, but he doesn’t love completion. My mother, on the other hand, wanted him to get it done, build that thing, finish it. I guess I sit on the fence between both those worlds.”
With the advent of Amazon, Peter admits that “retail has dropped out for us. Now we’re looking more seriously at how we do business, but what we realized was that we deliver services by hand. That has always been our trump card.” And while they’ve always excelled at customer service, he allows that “that’s just the buy-in chip now. People expect certain things when they come here, and we’ve had to learn how to deliver.”
A self-professed technology nut, Peter remembers that when SureTint was presented to him, his first thought was, “I want that.” The idea of being able to keep tabs on the amount of color used in every service was a genius idea, and he was on board from the get-go. Recently the salon began using LaRu, SureTint’s most advanced hair color management technology. The easy-to-use software system takes color management to a whole different level with its intuitive new interface and added features, like real-time reports and analytics, before and after client photos, and reduced color waste.
Stephanie Montanez, a colorist at the salon, says that there’s a lot to like about LaRu. “You can create your client’s profile depending on the density of the hair, how much re-growth there is or how much gray she has,” says Montanez, who uses that information to decide how much product to use to get the results she wants, significantly reducing waste in the process. “We still use MIA to create profiles, but LaRu is the system we’re using for weighing and measuring our color. I can actually customize batch size at the scale instead of using the app to do it.” Another plus according to Montanez is that LaRu has made the process of ordering product every week more way more efficient. “One of our colorists orders color for all of us on a weekly basis. In the past, we had to look at our color usage and figure out if we needed to order more or less than the week before. Now we just print out our reports from LaRu and turn them in. It really streamlines the process.”
“LaRu made me realize how hopelessly outdated our business management software was,” says Peter, who began looking for a new system almost immediately. “People go on Amazon, and it tells them that they’re almost out of coffee. That’s the kind of follow-up we wanted to provide for our clients, and our new software will allow us to do that, you know, ‘Hey Jane, you haven’t been in for a pedicure in a while.’ We should have a point system that rewards clients with a free service after 1,000 points. It’s these kinds of things that people have come to expect from other businesses, and we just weren’t sophisticated enough to offer them. Now we are.”
Peter admits that it’s been exciting but also a little scary steering the ship that is Noelle Spa for Wellness and Beauty in a new direction, but then he confesses that “new tools excite the hell out of me, and that’s what makes this business so much fun.”