BABS Spa a soft touch in hair, skin care
The Birmingham business offers individualized services, reasonable prices and a friendly, nurturing vibe
Sometimes, timing and desire do meet.
Decades after crafting a business plan for a retail beauty enterprise, Vivian Pickard finally gets to work her dream. She has teamed with industry veteran Bernadette Blanchard to open the renovated airy and elegantly appointed BABS Salon & Wellness Spa in Birmingham.
“I’ve always loved the beauty field,” said Pickard, who retired last summer after more than 40 years at General Motors Corp., most recently as its director of Detroit community partnerships. “We didn’t use all the components because Bernadette was already in business. But my master’s thesis was in retail, and this industry has always been attractive to me.”
Blanchard, who has been styling hair for 30 years, had for 10 years been the sole owner of BABS. The partnership with Pickard resulted in a complete salon renovation and the addition of two high-profile employees who had been salon owners: hair stylist Bashar Kallabat and facialist/aesthetician Natalya Ostapenko. In all, the salon has 12 “partners,” as Blanchard and Pickard call them.
“That’s our philosophy here. We own it, but we respect everyone’s input. We don’t push the fact that we’re owners. We have a great team,” said Pickard in a joint interview at BABS, which sits on South Worth Street, near intersection of Lincoln and Woodward avenues.
That makes for a particularly accommodating and welcoming environment that Lorri Delaney, who has seven children, makes time for. She followed Ostapenko to BABS, and although the salon has been open only since May, has visited eight times.
“I am firm believer in clean skin. I’m all about the facial and good products, and she’s really amazing at bringing out the beauty,” Delaney said.
The foundation for partnership was established five years ago when Pickard was a client of Blanchard’s. The two quickly became friends.
“She is very calm and professional, and I liked her as a person and hair stylist,” said Pickard, admittedly the more talkative of the two. Pickard tends to handle marketing while Blanchard focuses on finances and day-to-day management. “Then we come together on all of it. We make our decisions together.”
Adds Blanchard, with a smile: “I observe, and she pulls them in.”
It’s their mission to provide an experience that leaves patrons refreshed and looking their best. Within a space of about 2,300-square-feet, BABS, which stands for Beauty And Body Services, offers a full range of tailored and healthful products and treatments in a serene milieu.
A master colorist, Blanchard specializes in all aspects of hair care, including precision cutting and keratin hair straightening treatments, and is a certified hair restoration expert. Additional services include hair additions and custom wigs (Blanchard is also involved with Wigs for Kids, for children who have lost their hair for various reasons).
Besides hair care, BABS provides all manner of manicures and pedicures; makeup application and brow and lash tint; and full-body waxing.
Administered in relaxing, sumptuous, private suites, spa services run the gamut, for males and females, as well as teens. Various nonsurgical cosmetic treatments like Botox injections are handled by an on-site physician. A variety of body treatments are offered, including a slimming wax and steam; seaweed detoxifier; and Dead Sea mud wrap. A tented apparatus called “Steamy Wonder” not only detoxifies, but rejuvenates and heals muscles.
BABS’ massage therapists incorporate deep tissue, Swedish, acupressure, lymphatic drainage and other techniques to address individual therapeutic needs, including those that are health related. Scalp, aroma therapy, sports, pregnancy and stone massages are available.
Packages include BABS Escape, an indulgent spa day with an array of services and light lunch. The salon enjoys hosting groups for a day of pampering, and soon will host a birthday soiree for a Detroit sports figure’s 12-year-old. Some employers schedule employee appreciation days at the salon.
BABS also has a wellness component that extends beyond everyday services. For example, it plans to present a series of lectures addressing a variety of health and wellness topics. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it welcomed a group of women in various stages of the disease for an uplifting day of comfort and camaraderie.
“Some of them said they were leaving after lunch, but ended up staying for the whole event. They were having such a good time, and were just so happy,” said Blanchard. “Whatever issues they were dealing with, they were able to forget about for a while.”
Pickard sees such events as extensions of her former role as president of the General Motors Foundation, and of her spirituality. Because she enjoys building relationships and supporting other women, quiet retirement is not in her DNA. “I feel like I have to do something with my time,” said Pickard, who remains active with several organizations and still sits on corporate boards, including Inforum and The Parade Company.
In an area rife with salons and spas, it’s the individualized services, reasonable prices and a friendly, nurturing vibe that helps BABS stand out, Blanchard said. Free parking is also available, a rare commodity in downtown Birmingham.
“Your facial is a facial for you. If you come in with an issue, we’ll make sure we find the right products. The same with massages,” Pickard said. “We love our customers.”
Mary Chapman is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
BABS Salon & Wellness Spa
1077 S. Worth, Birmingham
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Complimentary rear parking