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Metro Design: A Unique 'Hair-Raising' Experience

The salon, founded in University City, provides its clients with a private and personal hairstyling experience.

How many times have you gone to get your hair done and been frustrated with the service after you leave? A loud salon or maybe there is more gossip and chit-chat than actual attention to detail.

Metro Design Studio, located at McKnight and I-170 in University City, aims to change all that. The studio provides its clients with a personal, one-on-one atmosphere.

The Metro model creates several small salons within one larger space. Each stylist or barber has his or her own private work space—complete with closing doors.

"It gets rid of the distractions," said Metro manager Lise Napoli. "The focus is on the client—it's just you and your hair stylist."

Napoli said the model works wonders for clients of all ages and backgrounds, but provides something extra for those with alopecia or cancer. 

"There's privacy there, which is wonderful for someone who might be going through something where they don't want to sit out in the middle of the salon," she said. "It creates a bond between the client and their stylist."

The Metro Model

Metro Design Studio Salons is the largest high-end salon in the St.Louis metropolitan area. The owners (Howard Smith, Tony Pringle and Anne Kessen Lowell) opened the University City location in 1999 with the idea of giving customers an experience they couldn't find anywhere else.

When Metro opened in 1999, it was St. Louis' first high-end “self-contained” studio salon. The concept allows each stylist to have their own private studio to host clients, rather than just renting a chair and counter space at a large salon.

With Metro Design, stylists pay a weekly flat fee to rent a private studio and in return, receive 100 percent of their profits and the status of being a certified small business owner. 

Not only does each stylists have the freedom to choose their own products, prices, names and schedules, but when they move in, their studio is complete with cutting and drying chairs, a pedicure station if needed, cabinets, and a mirror and sink. Their utilities and maintenance fees are included in the rent. 

Each stylist is a small business owner, running their own shop out of Metro.

"These aren't people right out of beauty school," Napoli said. "They come here with clients, ready to take charge of their business. They have an entrepreneurial spirit."

The stylists set their own hours, working when it suits them and their clients.

"We have people in here early and people who stay late," Napoli said. "Because we don't have a front desk and everyone runs their own shop, you don't have a backlog of people waiting in a lobby. It runs very smoothly." 

Pringle said a longtime client helped him formulate the concept for Metro in St. Louis.

"It's very loosely based on a model from Milwaukee," he said. "But we made it our own."

Ronita Herron, a hair stylist at the University City location, said she enjoys the privacy that renting a studio at Metro's University City location gives to her and her clientele. Herro's business is the Regal Image Salon. 

"I love working in this profession because each day is completely different from the day before. I get to use my creativity to make others feel better and believe that the privacy and atmosphere of Metro Design Studio Salons fits me very well," she said. 

Updating the Salon

This summer, renovations were made to the U City location to match the look and feel of the other three locations. The renovations included new paint, lighting, artwork and an updated lobby. 

Metro has one full-time manager and 95 tenants total, with waiting lists for Metro 2, 3 and 4.

Metro Design in St. Louis

  • 1999 — Metro 1 (University City)
  • 2001 — Metro 2 (Des Peres)
  • 2006 — Metro 3 (Creve Coeur)
  • 2009 — Metro 4 (Chesterfield)

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