By Sandra Williams
Theresa’s Salon & Spa is a full service pampering center that is housed in a warm and cozy refurnished home on busy Freya Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues.
Theresa Fischer was born on Fairchild Air Force Base in 1953. Her father was in the military and with the exception of a three year tour in Guam, she was raised in Spokane, attending Eddison Elementary, Libby Middle School and graduating from Ferris High School.
Theresa had her sights set on becoming an attorney. “When I graduated from high school I really wanted to be a lawyer. I loved mysteries, and Perry Mason was my favorite show. In middle school and high school, I would just read his books and I thought, oh yeah, that’s me. I’m going to be a criminal lawyer. I got this, and then reality came.”
Theresa was a natural salesperson. She sold both Avon and Mary Kay products when she was growing up, so her focus turned from criminal law to business law to make more money, but “then I decided to get married.”
The marriage didn’t work and Theresa, now a single mom, found herself working at Kaiser Mead, an aluminum plant on Spokane’s north side. The company was in the process of cutting back and Theresa was going to lose her job. The legal profession began calling to her again.
“I wanted to be a court reporter and I checked on that, but the school was in Idaho, it was at night, and I had a young son. I was going to Al on Wellesley. He was doing my hair and I was telling him what was going on in my life and he said, ‘have you ever thought about being a hairdresser’. I said, you’ve got to be kidding me. He said, but you have the personality for it, and you can make good money and set your time and your hours.”
Little did Theresa know that the conversation with Al, a well known hairdresser in the African American community, would change her life. When she got her “walking papers” from Kaiser, she used her unemployment money and went to beauty school.
Attending school was challenging. Theresa was the oldest person in the class, and her unemployment ran out before she finished, but with support from her family, she completed the program and got her license in 1984.
Her first location was inside of Larry’s Barber Shop. “I was looking for a place to work. I went to Larry and he said okay, come on in. I knew Larry because he cut everybody’s hair in town. Larry sat down and talked to me and asked me what I wanted to do. He was a good mentor. He gave me good advice, like paying yourself first and handling your finances.” She smiles, “I didn’t follow it.”
Theresa started in the back of the barber shop and stayed there for a couple of months before moving into the empty shop next door. It was Larry that gave her the name, Salon East. She was next door to Larry for seven months, but was working seven days a week to pay rent for the shop and maintain an apartment for her son. “It was too much.” She ultimately moved Salon East into a home that her brother bought for her, and the shop flourished there for 28 years.
Over the years, Theresa says she has been inspired by her journey. “I have just met so many wonderful people that have inspired me and totally encouraged me. People that I started with at Larry’s are still coming to me. I have generations that have continued to come back and support me. I’m so grateful and so blessed with all of the people who have come through the doors who supported me when I was low and told me not to give up on myself.
Theresa embarked on the newest chapter in her life four years ago when she opened Theresa’s Salon and Spa. This time the name came from her son, and the location came from one of her long time clients, Joadle Sirmans, who asked Theresa, “what is your real dream?” After Salon East closed, Theresa had been considering getting a job and working for somebody else, but Joadle’s question stuck with her.
“My dream was to have a full service salon. That’s what I always wanted. Joadle said, okay, I want you to go look at this house. The first thing that I saw were the French doors. It’s like the way my salon was set up. And I said, oh yes, I can do this. I couldn’t have asked for a better location with the traffic, and I could vision what it was. The property owner, Terry Tombari, asked me what do you need. He told me to write my dream list, and everything that I wanted and more he put in here for me. That’s God.”
Theresa put an ad on Craiglist and got her first two employees, Melissa Campbell, who did facials, waxing and skin care, and Deb Thompson, who was a braider. Both women eventually moved out of the state.
“They were both excellent at their craft and that’s what I wanted to keep in here. Good people. Who loved what they did. I have a certain brand that I want. I want an upscale salon, but I want whoever walks in here to feel comfortable and respected.”
Theresa’s commitment to her customers is paying off and her business is growing. So is her staff. Jennifer does lash extensions, facials and waxing. Tammy does nails and will be doing pedicures starting this month. Meser is a part time braider and Jeanette works out of her home. Theresa is also looking for another stylist to help keep up with the demand.
Theresa’s Salon & Spa is located at 424 S. Freya Street, Spokane. Phone: 509-534-2470.