The ownership duo behind Team Blonde, a fashion accessories retailer on Madison, was denied a business license that would allow the store to offer haircuts, pedicures and other spa services because of a zoning regulation that attempts to limit the number of salons in the downtown district. Along with the rejection came word from village officials that Team Blonde must stop offering these services.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said he visited the store, at 7442 Madison, on Friday to deliver the rejection. While speaking with the owners, Heidi Vance and Jayne Ertel, Gillian said two more customers made appointments with the salon. Team Blonde has 14 days to end these operations, said Gillian.
“They’re not happy, and obviously I understand that,” Gillian said.
Prompting the village’s decision is a rule that requires at least 500 feet between salons on Madison. There are several such businesses within close proximity to Team Blonde.
Business owners and village officials affirmed in December that the rule is a good one, and left it unchanged in a review of all the zoning regulations for the business district. Team Blonde’s Dec. 15 application for a spa license is the first test of the rule since it was reviewed. Several business owners, and the municipality, knew at the time of the zoning review that Team Blonde was in violation of the provision.
Vance, a co-owner of the store, acknowledged that Team Blonde has been offering spa services without a permit for several years. On two separate occasions, she said, village officials offered their verbal approval with the reason being that Team Blonde was primarily a retailer. Neither of those officials identified by Vance currently works for the municipality.
“We were not attempting to dodge any rules,” Vance said.
Potentially, Team Blonde could still win its license, but would have to get that approval from a majority of the village council members. The business could ask the council to adopt an amendment to the zoning regulations, but that process would not be completed within the 14-day window given for closing its spa. However, if Team Blonde makes an appeal to the council, Gillian said he may reconsider that deadline and allow the spa services to continue until the council made its decision.
Vance said she and Ertel had not made any final decisions on whether to seek that amendment. However, she did stress that the store’s salon has become a critical component.
“We are very, very likely to go out of business,” Vance said.
It isn’t that the hair coloring and nail treatments are particularly lucrative for the store, said Vance, but that spa customers often spend additional money on other items in the shop. Cutting that client base would be devastating, she said.
Vance also argued that her business may not be what regulators had in mind when they developed the 500-foot rule. The intent of the zoning regulations along Madison is to encourage retail stores and pedestrian traffic. Team Blonde – spa included – fits that ideal, she said. She described the mix of retail and salon services at Team Blonde as a “hybrid” that the rules don’t really account for.
“It doesn’t undermine the spirit of the rules,” Vance said.
Complicating the issue is the dynamic role that Vance and Ertel have played in Madison Street’s resurgence. Their own brand of socially-conscious retail has helped lure both new customers and new businesses to the street. Vance and Ertel have also been very active in local commerce groups, and have helped promote a sense of cooperation among businesses here that has benefited even competing shop owners.
Gillian, who served as a council member when Team Blonde first opened in Forest Park, said that, “as much as anyone” he’s aware of the women’s impact.
“I was trying to figure out a way to make it OK,” he said of their request for a license.