A Sense of Belonging Connects Wren & Ivy Salon Co. to the Downtown Gastonia Community
Leave it to Gaston County to grow in new and exciting ways even when it seems impossible. In a few short weeks, Wren & Ivy Salon Co. will celebrate their one-year anniversary in downtown Gastonia. 2020 was full of redemptive stories and beaten odds and Wren & Ivy, a sustainable and organic salon and boutique has created an environment drawing in clients from near and far.
Local business owner, Becky Chambers, set out to create a business that gives back not only to her employees and the community at large, but to the environment. A past health scare led her to prioritize the products she and her stylists use and has shaped the way she runs her business.
After a past of not feeling valued in the workplace, Chambers vowed to create an inclusive space for both stylists and clients, prioritizing people while also setting up a sustainable business plan.
“I like to make people feel valued and give them a sense of belonging,” Chamber says. “When I didn’t have those things, I wasn’t happy. There’s only so much happiness money can give you.”
When left her job at the large salon where she’d been working for eight years, she wasn’t sure what was next.
Bringing the Dream to Life
In February 2020, Chambers signed a lease to her downtown Gastonia space, completely unaware of what the world had in store for the coming months.
It would have been easy to give up, but Chambers chose to view the timing optimistically. She says, “It actually worked out because if I had known [Covid] was going to happen, I might have been too scared.”
With her lease keeping her committed to her new endeavor, Chambers opened the doors of Wren & Ivy on May 26, 2020, the day salons were able welcome back clients safely since the onset of the pandemic.
Being a part of the community of businesses in downtown Gastonia has been a transformative experience for Chamber, as she's watched downtown businesses grow and change, despite the setbacks of the pandemic.
“Downtown connects other parts of the county,” she says, “and being here makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger and better."
As is true for many new Gastonia businesses, like Pita Wheel and Cool Beans Cat Café, Chambers was thrilled with the amount of support her business received from the community. Likewise, she enjoys the camaraderie of the local businesses. She can often be found with her staff at Webb Custom Kitchen, where she says "they all know us."
Beyond the sense of belonging she cultivates for her clients and employees, being organic and sustainable gives Wren & Ivy a unique role in the local business landscape, a decision brought about by a health scare.
The Importance of Sustainability
When her youngest child was three months old, Chambers was diagnoses with thyroid cancer. After having undergone a thyroidectomy and radiation, she began to research how to keep herself, her family and future clients safe from toxins.
Her research led her to the realization that the beauty industry is chemical-laden and she vowed to work towards changing this within the walls of her salon.
All of Wren & Ivy’s services, from hair cuts to hair color to hair styling and even spray-tanning, are intended to have a positive impact on not just the client but the planet, following guidelines allowing them unique distinctions in sustainability.
Word of this unique experience began to make its rounds. Before long, she was attracting out-of-town clients from towns without high-end salons as well as those traveling from Charlotte and elsewhere for an organic and sustainable beauty option.
Seeing the importance of this distinction, Chambers worked for Wren & Ivy to be a Certified B Corporation, a certification for businesses that balance purpose and profit, a title held by companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s. B Corporations work to reduce inequality and to create high quality jobs with dignity and purpose while aligning their business practices to positively impact community and environment.
Following this trajectory, Wren & Ivy also holds certification as a Green Circle Salon. Part of this certification means that at least 95% of the business’s waste must be recycled, to keep beauty waste out of landfills and waterways.
Rather than going in the trash, hair clippings are composted with other waste or turned into bio-composite plastic, which is used to make new products like recycling bins. Excess hair color is shipped to partner facilities, where it is turned into clean energy.
Retail Brings the Business Full Circle
Chambers explains that the beauty products the salon uses also make a difference in its environmental impact. Davines, an Italian beauty product line, “is a family-owned business with their own farmers,” Chambers says. “It’s kind of like a farm-to-stylist product and color line.”
Wren & Ivy is also home to an Upcycled Boutique. Clients can browse racks of new and second-hand items in the salon’s loft, regardless of whether they have an appointment. Chambers’ further plans are to donate 10% of proceeds from the boutique to a community organization as she works for further partnerships in the community.
Overall, the experience of opening a new business, mid-pandemic, has allowed Chambers and her staff the unique experience of connecting to the community they've been able to cultivate in this short amount of time. Bringing her ideas to fruition, with the support of the local business community, Chambers has built a lasting business with a big impact on community and low impact on the environment. Her creativity abounds in her unique storefront, and no matter who walks through the doors, all are welcome.