A year ago, a roof collapse led to the closure of Studio 401, but hairdressers were welcomed into other downtown Albany salons within days and continued to work.
“We thought it was going to be a week or a month,” said Tina Ramirez, the former owner of the business, who now cuts hair at La Belle Boutique, 337 First Ave. W.
The change, however, is officially permanent, Ramirez said. She and Deborah Steffens are staying at La Belle as independent contractors, and another former Studio 401 worker, Megan Daly, continues to cut hair at Tonic Salon, 240 Washington St. SW.
Studio 401 won’t reopen, partly because its building at 401 Second Ave. SW is being sold by owner Matt Bennett, who also owns acclaimed downtown Albany restaurant Sybaris.
“We’re also happy with where we’re at. So why go back?” Ramirez said.
Bennett said repairs are almost complete at the structure at 401 Second Ave. SW. But during the last year, he’s reconsidered moving his business from 442 First Ave. W. into the building next door to the Studio 401 space, which he also owns and is renovating. He planned to open a bar in the area above the salon.
“That year, it made me really think about what I want to do when I grow up,” Bennett said.
“I like to cook,” he added, explaining that if he expanded Sybaris, he’d have to hire and manage far more workers instead of spending time in the kitchen.
Bennett still plans on purchasing another building and moving the restaurant there. “We have a great lease and a great landlord right now, but I do want to own our own building. And that will happen when the time’s right,” he said.
Ramirez said that she and Steffens fit right in at La Belle Boutique.
“If you have to be displaced by something like that, there’s not a better place we could have landed. … We were definitely in a rough situation at the time,” she said.
La Belle has a good mix of workers and a spirit of cooperation, not competition, which isn’t always the case at salons, Ramirez said.
The roof collapse came on Nov. 2, 2017, and Ramirez was inside the hair salon at the time. “It sounded like an earthquake. It was a pretty hard crash. I mean, you felt it,” she said, in a previous interview.
She thought it was workers upstairs doing repairs, but on Nov. 6, 2017, she came in after the weekend, noticed a large crack in the ceiling and began to realize that something was wrong.
Metal scaffolding was placed around the building and remained there for months, to prevent the unstable brick structure from crumbling onto the sidewalk.
Ramirez started cutting hair in 1986 after attending Phagans' Beauty School in Corvallis. She opened her first salon in 2003 in Albany, and moved her business from the Heritage Mall area to downtown about five years ago.
She also lives in downtown Albany and she loves seeing familiar faces in the area.
Ramirez said that some of her customers have been with her for 30 years, and they’re one of the best parts of the job. And she’s cut the hair of the children and grandchildren of some clients. “I do a lot of kids' haircuts,” she said.