Upon setting foot into Spark On Bluff, one might be able to draw an unlikely comparison to the famous sitcom watering hole, “Cheers.”
It might boast barbers instead of bartenders.
And for what Spark lacks in sudsy brews it more than makes up for in hair care products.
However, one key similarity is clear: Everybody knows your name.
It’s a distinguishment co-owner Amanda Trotman takes a particular pride in and what she believes sets Spark On Bluff apart from other salons.
“It’s a lot like family,” she said of the business’ clientele. “It’s a very comfortable and relaxed environment. We don’t often take a lot of
walk-ins or new customers. We intentionally keep things smaller, cozier and more manageable. Because of that, we’ve been able to streamline and really get to know our clients, as well as keep prices reasonable.”
Trotman, 40, along with business associate Marlo Goodrich, are marking their 10th anniversary of the salon this year.
Originally opening as Spark Family Hair Salon on Central Avenue in February 2011, five years later, it relocated to its current Bluff Street building, near Dubuque’s Cable Car Square. It was rechristened Spark On Bluff to reflect the new location.
While the move enabled the salon to have more available parking, it offered a smaller space — exactly what Trotman and Goodrich prefer.
“When you have a big salon, there is just so much to worry about,” Trotman said. “This way, there is less worry and more time to focus on our current clients, in addition to our time and our families.”
Trotman, who is mom to three teenagers — Bridget, 15; Max, 16; and Jackson, 19 — along with her husband of 20 years, Mitchell, said that an interest in the beauty industry didn’t come her way immediately.
“I had an aunt who was a hairdresser years ago, but I actually started out studying dog grooming at Kirkwood Community College,” Trotman said, with a laugh. “I didn’t really discover styling hair for people until I was in my 20s.”
Trotman, who originally is from Dubuque, eventually took up studies at at Capri College. From there, she managed several Cost Cutter locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before the desire to own a salon was born.
Returning to Dubuque, Trotman initially opened Spark on her own, with Goodrich as a stylist after the two had connected at a Christmas party. When she decided to move the salon to Bluff Street, she offered Goodrich the opportunity to partner up.
“He’s so talented and has a great energy and vibe with the clients,” Trotman said. “People who come here love him. And we always had a great chemistry and friendship working together. He’s taken what I could have done in this space on my own and made it greater.”
It’s a feeling that goes both ways.
“I couldn’t imagine being in business with anyone else,” Goodrich said. “It’s so impressive that no matter how busy we are, she always remains faithful to her work and family. She somehow manages to make time for every aspect of her life and be the exact person that is needed. Spark On Bluff wouldn’t be without her. She will always be working harder behind the scenes than you could ever imagine. That’s exactly what every business needs, and I’m lucky and grateful to have her not only as a business partner but as a best friend.”
Such sentiments also are expressed by Spark’s clients.
“I’ve been with Amanda for around 10 years,” Kim Stanton said. “Amanda is family. She does a beautiful job with my hair and speaks truth to me when I have an unwise idea for my curly hair. She’s a wonderful person.”
Elena Dominguez has been a client at Spark for 19 years and said Trotman has been a part of many of her family’s memorable occasions.
“She has done my hair for all my high school dances, my quinceañera, helped my hair recover from two surgeries and other special moments,” Dominguez said. “Amanda has always gone out of her way to make sure I never have another bad hair day.”
Although Trotman and Goodrich plan to continue to keep Spark On Bluff intimate, the business has expanded in other ways.
Last year, it launched a line of products called 44One Luxury Haircare — a nod to its street address. Including everything from shampoo and conditioner to serum, styling glaze, sea salt spray and hairspray, the products don’t contain sulfates, parabens or silicone. Priced from approximately $20 to $40, they also are cruelty free.
Trotman said such standards are becoming more in demand when it comes to beauty and hair care products.
“I think that people are becoming a lot more aware of what they’re putting on their bodies and of the environment,” she said. “People also are wanting products that are better sourced — something that promotes long-term awareness.”
Some of the salons other specialties include weddings, as well as working with clients who are college students and with clients who have special needs and suffer from sensory challenges.
It’s another niche Trotman said that she is happy to carve out, while avoiding competing with salons who add services like nail and skin care to their menus.
“We enjoy the clients,” Trotman said. “We have clients who started coming here when they were just 4 years old. Now, they’re 14. Some were 14 and are now 24 and starting families. The social aspect and getting to see that is the most satisfying thing about the job.”
That the salon has been in business for a decade doesn’t feel real, Trotman said. But it has a lot to show, including one of its barbers — Courtney Holmes — garnering national attention in 2015 and appearing on “The Rachael Ray Show” for offering free haircuts to children who read aloud to him during trims.
“A lot has happened,” Trotman said. “It’s exciting to think about what the next 10 years will bring.”
That might include one additional growth opportunity — establishing a branch of the business that could function as an old-fashioned barbershop.
However, that will come down to how Trotman plans to continue to juggle her family time, as well other passions in her life.
“It won’t be anything too crazy,” she said. “The kids will all be graduated from college by then, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.