A year in which small businesses have struggled to survive has come to a cheerful end for a well-known salon in Coupeville.
Aaron Wiley, the owner of Seaside Spa and Salon, won a Puget Sound Energy contest for a small-business energy efficiency and cosmetic makeover worth $45,000.
The energy company’s media partner, KING-5 News, will be filming the progress of the work for an Evening Magazine episode that will air early in 2021, according to Leslie Meyers, outreach supervisor for PSE.
Wiley said she never expected to win. She just happened to see an email about the contest late one night in October when she was having trouble sleeping and wrote an essay to enter.
“It was almost like a journal entry,” she said. “I wrote about all the wonderful things we’ve done at Seaside Spa and how I’m so proud of it.”
Wiley wrote about how she opened the salon 14 years ago as an ambitious, young, single mother.
She noted that the business has been a “Green Circle Salon” for a year because her entire staff strongly believes in sustainability. Under the program, 95 percent of the salon’s waste is recycled, from hair to foils to plastics.
In addition, she wrote about how difficult this pandemic year has been and how her team members have pulled together. They were forced to close for a time because of the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions. When they reopened, they kept capacity at 25 percent and implemented procedures to ensure the salon is safe, clean and healthy.
Customers were breaking down the proverbial door to get an appointment.
At the same time, the salon raised money to help WhidbeyHealth respond safely to the pandemic.
“We just worked so hard this year,” she said.
By the time a KING-5 representative started calling her in November, Wiley had forgotten about the contest and thought it was just a sales call. When she finally connected with the representative, she was told that she was a finalist and that she needed to answer a few more questions on a Zoom call.
Wiley said she was surprised that the person on the other end of the video call looked like Jim Dever from Evening Magazine. She said her heart sank when he told her she wasn’t a finalist.
But then he said she was a winner, King 5 captured Wiley’s hilariously shocked reaction and sent her the still image.
Afterward, Wiley told hair stylist Sarah Leavell that they had won and they both became emotional.
“We were crying and wiping our tears with our masks,” she said.
Meyers explained that PSE officials wanted to devise a contest to help businesses during the pandemic.
“We wanted to show that energy efficiency can help small businesses,” she said.
About 2,000 businesses were nominated. Meyers said the company looked for businesses that had been negatively impacted by the pandemic and would see real change on energy bills. The four businesses that won the contest are also geographically diverse.
Salons are perfect businesses for the program, she said, because they use a lot of energy for things like hot water, dryers and lights.
In addition, the salon is in one of the historic buildings that line Front Street. The John Robertson house was built as a grist mill in 1866, according to Wiley. Robertson ended up erecting a different building across the street as a mill and turned the original building into his home. It is currently owned by artist Teresa Saia.
While the 154-year-old building has a lot of character — and possibly a ghost — it isn’t exactly energy efficient, with the original floors leaking cold air.
Wiley said a lot of the work will involve sealing leaks. A new floor will be floated over the old one and drafty doors will be replaced. In addition, the heating system will be upgraded to energy-efficient heaters and the lights will be replaced with LEDs. Local contractors will do much of the work.
Wiley is also working with a designer to update the look of the business.
Meyers explained that any business can get an energy assessment in which a specialist will suggest ways to increase efficiency. All of the nominated businesses are being contacted and offered an assessment, she said.
Wiley said the TV crew has already stopped by a couple of times to film the business and she expects they will continue to drop by as the work progresses.
She hopes that the other businesses in town will also benefit from the attention of a TV show.
“I really love doing business in downtown Coupeville,” she said. “And I love that Evening Magazine is going to be on Front Street on a regular basis.”