As a little girl, Maggie Mae, owner of Maggie’s Salon in Vineyard Haven, always knew she wanted to cut hair. She styled the hair of her dolls and stuffed animals, but when she cut her baby brother’s hair, her parents decided to draw the line. So Maggie would hide her cut hair in a desk drawer — as if her parents wouldn’t notice.
And yes, Maggie Mae is Maggie’s real name. She was born Maggie Mae Gauley, which, when she married, became Maggie DeSorcy but after she was divorced she became just Maggie Mae.
Maggie was in the work study program at MVRHS and worked at Dana Hughes’ salon, Hair by Dana in Oak Bluffs while still in school. Post graduation in 1997, she studied at Blaine Beauty School in Hyannis, and then returned to the Island where she worked at Rosecuts salon in Vineyard Haven.
Maggie worked as a stylist at Rosecuts until 2005, when she became pregnant with her daughter Katherine. While she was on maternity leave, she decided she would rather go out on her own since it would provide her with more flexibility as a new mother. And that’s when she got her first business loan from Martha’s Vineyard Cooperative Bank. She set up a small salon on Beach Road, across the street from the ArtCliff Diner in Vineyard Haven.
Looking back on those early days, Maggie said, “I’ve always been a dreamer but I never imagined what would become of my business; I thought I’d just be a one-chair chop shop.” The first year was a little lean but as the word spread, by year two the business expanded, and Maggie staffed up, hiring a crew that would be with her to this day: Richard Cascarino, Emily Cottle, Beth Vought, and Christine McLean who only recently retired.
By year three, business was booming. She was growing out of her space and a condominium became available at the 31 Beach Road office park, directly across the street — plus it had parking.
The new salon gave Maggie a place to channel her energy.
“I’m a little ADD and I have tunnel vision,” she said. “I have one focus, that’s to make my business successful.” Maggie likes the fact that a business doesn’t lie. “You either have clients or you don’t, you’re either successful or you’re not.” And based on her success in 2008, she decided to expand and open up a second location in Oak Bluffs called Circuit Style. The second shop was another success story but Maggie found herself getting stretched a little thin. So after three years, when Maggie was pregnant with her son London, she was faced with a decision: “I can do two businesses or have two babies,” she said, “but I can’t do both.” So in 2010 Maggie sold the Oak Bluffs salon to Seniel Hannagan. But she doubled down on her Vineyard Haven salon, adding a spa in 2012. “I love creating space,” Maggie said, “it’s part of the fun of running a business; I do a lot of the work myself, I’m very hands-on.” Maggie would eventually sell the spa to Caleen Abraham who opened Caleen’s Day Spa.
Maggie counts her staff as being one of her biggest competitive advantages.
“Many salons struggle with staffing,” she says, “I focus on the year-round business; we’ve had our stylists for years and I don’t lay people off in the winter.”
All of Maggie’s five stylists work entirely on commission. Often salons will rent chairs out to stylists, but under that arrangement stylists could offer their own products and Maggie would lose a degree of quality control.
Having been in the business for nearly 20 years, Maggie has noticed a change in today’s customers. “Today’s clients are more educated,” she said. “They learn from social media, they watch Youtube videos on styling, so it’s important that our staff stays up-to-date as well.” Maggie frequently brings experts into her salon to educate her staff. Having a highly informed talented staff has paid dividends. Maggie’s Salon was voted Best on the Vineyard for 10 consecutive years.
Weddings have always been a big part of a salon’s business on the Vineyard, and Maggie notices changes occurring there as well. Big wedding parties used to include about six people but now they can have 10 or more, they expect more and more services and cost is no object.
Much of the appeal of a Vineyard wedding is that weddings on the Island tend to have a natural feel, but Maggie said more and more often they’re becoming what she calls, “Instagram weddings.” Sometimes the authenticity is sacrificed for staging just the right shot.
Looking back on her life as a stylist and entrepreneur, Maggie feels the price for success is that often she’s had to sacrifice some of her personal life.
“I’ve never taken a personal day or had a paid vacation,” she said. But to Maggie, the benefits of watching a business flourish far outweigh the sacrifice. And one of the most rewarding aspects of her business is watching so many of the young people who have worked with her go on to have successful careers of their own. “Often they’ll start working with me as interns while still in high school,” Maggie said, “then go off to school and have a successful career, whether it’s on the Island or on Newbury Street. That’s a great feeling.”