Cincinnati Enquirer – March 19, 2013
At 30, Mitchell’s now a local beauty tradition.

Deborah Mitchell Schmidt started with a vision of the perfect hair salon: a place of luxury and relaxation, where stylists understand current trends and clients feel like the most important people in the world.

Thirty years later, Schmidt sees this: Mitchell’s Salon and Day Spa, a $24 million-a-year business with five Cincinnati locations and two spinoffs called Pump Salon. The iconic Cincinnati salon is celebrating three decades in business with 350 employees, including 143 hair stylists and 140 massage, skin and nail specialists.

The business has come a long way from its start in a house in Montgomery in 1983. Today, Mitchell’s often is named top salon in the city and is featured in popular fashion and bridal magazines.

“I always tell people I did this because I had really bad hair,” Schmidt, 63, says from the study of her Indian Hill home. “I never had a great experience in a salon. I thought it could be done better.”

As an executive for a hair products company in the 1970’s, Schmidt saw many salons in her travels across the country. Leaders such as Vidal Sassoon were introducing the idea of “luxury” salons, where stylists worked in semi-private spaces and receptionists greeted guests and took appointments in well-appointed lobbies.

Schmidt says it was a far cry from the beauty parlors used by most women of the time. Often they were small rooms in private homes or strip shopping malls, where stylists cut hair while answering phones and then cleaning the floors.

“It was usually loud and smelly,” she recalls. “You couldn’t talk to your hairdresser without the person next to you hearing everything. You want to have the latest look, but you’re in this place where nothing is pretty.”

Having visited upscale salons in New York City and elsewhere, Schmidt decided to recreate that experience for customers here.

Schmidt pioneered the idea of the “day spa” with facials, massage and tanning beds – now standard for most salons. She also was among the first to offer longer hours and weekend appointments, and to advertise with high-fashion images.

“She’s a visionary for creating an oasis where you can come and relax,” says Helayne Angelus of Indian Hill, a Mitchell’s customer for more than 25 years. “I usually see the same person, but if I switch I’m not worried. The stylists are all well trained.”

Schmidt remains president of Mitchell’s. Daughter Logan Schmidt, 26, is marketing director, and Michael Batchelor is vice president and runs daily operations.

Growth has been steady throughout Mitchell’s history, but since the recession, Schmidt says it has slowed to about 3 or 4 percent per year.

She created Pump to appeal to younger customers, with video screens and upbeat music at locations at Rookwood Commons and Kenwood Towne Centre. Spa services aren’t offered, and prices are slightly lower.

“The whole industry has had a wonderful increase in the feel of the experience,” Schmidt says. “I’m glad we could be a part of it.”