This article appears in the January issue of 400 Life Magazine
The grayest of wintry January days in Forsyth County might make Miami-native April Fern Richards a little nostalgic for her home state (makes some of us wistful, too), but one step inside her bright and vibrant salon in downtown Cumming establishes why she loves calling this place home. And it’s anything but gray.
A self-dubbed “beauty school dropout” in 2000, she completed a dual license in Florida and Georgia (and made the dean’s list) in 2017.
“I’m so glad to be in this industry. It allows for so much creativity and fluctuation with my schedule,” says Richards, owner of Salon AF & Beauty Co. “I love that everything is always changing and evolving with hair trends, but I also love being able to take family time when I need it.”
The two ideas have always been intertwined for Richards, who nods to the environment her own mom created for her and her sisters growing up.
“I’ve been a creative person ever since I was little,” she says. “Being from a family of artists, I grew up with the tendency to see things in color. I have a knack for putting certain colors together that most people wouldn’t. I love being able to transform the way a person looks, whether it’s with hair color, special occasion make up or lash extensions. Seeing their face light up upon their first look at themselves is priceless! That’s when you know you’ve done your job.”
One place she wanted to accomplish that was in a new salon in downtown Cumming. She needed a bigger space and had her eye on one particular piece of real estate: a cozy white cottage on Pirkle Ferry Road.
“Something about that particular building — that little white house with the teal door — was just so cute,” says Richards. “I couldn’t afford it when I first inquired about it. Fast-forward two years, and it just kind of fell into my lap. It was a sign, I thought. I’m just going to do it! I’m not going to let COVID scare me! I had gotten so busy in such a short amount of time, and I was having to turn new clients away. I don’t want to do that! I want to keep them under my roof. So we went for it.”
The salon opened in its new location in early October of 2020 and Richards put her mark on downtown Cumming immediately — both on the house itself and on her clients, including the “F” for Fern, nodding to a family name packed with sentiment.
“Forsyth County has been very welcoming to me personally and as a business owner,” says Richards. “It is a central location for our clients that travel to us from Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Gainesville, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Marietta, Ball Ground, Atlanta, and even a few from Florida! We have a lot of locals as well, including several new clients who say they simply drove by, loved our sign and reached out to us on Facebook.”
That sign is only a hint of what’s on the inside. When the style trend was leaning toward whites and country rustic, Richards stuck with what she knew — color. And with a house that boasts a bright blue front door, the rest was easy, including a team of professionals who could match the space with equally vibrant personalities.
“That’s our goal,” says Richards. “We’re professionals, first, but our team has a lot of fun with each other, and that translates directly to our client’s experience. We like to laugh, we’re edgy, yet we’re down to earth. We all definitely have the gift of gab. It makes our customers feel welcome and they have a good time while they’re here.”
And they’re here for a lot more than refreshing your roots.
“My clientele trusts me to guide them on finding the best color that suits their complexion, face shape and fits their personality,” says Richards. “Many of them sit in my chair and say, ‘You got this, do whatever you want.’ I love that! I have several clients that have gone from natural colors to vivid colors, back to natural colors, [and more]! I’ve taken them through every single step. I enjoy seeing them transform through all of those phases in life.”
Aside from expert haircuts and color, Salon AF provides a full menu of facials and skin care services, full-body waxing, lash extensions, barber services, and special occasion hair and makeup. That’s good information to know as we emerge from our 2020 cocoons.
Richards is the first one to raise a hand to resetting this year.
“How much do we want just to move forward this year and forget about what happened in 2020?” she says. “I don’t really know how to do that, but I think you can start with a reset in how you take care of yourself — a little pampering, really. That goes a long way in getting our beauty routines back on track.”
Richards loves the new balayage hair color trend, where clients get a hand painted approach to that bright, sun-kissed hair color. It’s a natural look, with softer, more natural, lived-in color that’s super easy to maintain and can last for up to 10 weeks or more. The salon’s resident aesthetician suggests starting with a Basic Facial where she can analyze and pamper your skin, and recommend a plan of action to reset and renew your skin’s natural glow moving forward into the year. Even men can clean things up with a hot towel treatment and straight razor shave from the in-house barber.
Talking about those ideas with clients is one of this team’s favorite things to do. And 5-star reviews prove they’re good at bringing them to life — a predictable outcome when you’ve got professionals living out their passions with expert skillsets.
“Vibe is the word we like to use,” says Richards. “It means so much to me. We want clients to feel that energy when they’re here, and we want it to be a really good time. I’m partial to the decor of the salon, but that’s not what makes this salon my favorite place — my girls are. This team has all been handpicked to carry on the vibe of the salon. They bring strong skills and creativity to Salon AF; however, their dedication to growing this amazing little treasure with me has been so gratifying. I truly love how close we all are. Not only do we engage with each other as family, but we are all just as friendly with our clients and each other’s clients. No one is a stranger at our salon.”
Here’s to hoping 2021 has that same energy… and a new look.
Salon AF & Beauty Co. is at 114 Pirkle Ferry Road, Cumming, GA 30040. Contact: (470) 253-8242 | Facebook: Salon AF & Beauty Co. | Instagram: @salonaf_and_beautyco
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