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VOL. 125 | NO. 155 | Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cutting Loose

Two-time cancer survivor finds success in East Memphis salon

STACEY WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News

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Ryan Swanson applies highlights to Gail Soefker. After fighting a winning battle against cancer, the 29-year-old is realizing his dream of starting his own business, Ryan Patrick Salon.  Photo: Lance Murphey

At age 29, Ryan Swanson has his dream job.

As owner of the new Ryan Patrick Salon at 557 Erin Drive, near Poplar Avenue and Mendenhall Road in East Memphis, Swanson gets to set his own hours, make his own rules and live life to the fullest.

And that’s the best part of the dream, because Swanson’s July grand opening coincided with the third anniversary of his remission from Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

After his diagnosis in 2005, Swanson received six months of treatment at The West Clinic in Germantown. Two months after his last round of chemo, his cancer returned. He then spent three months at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he underwent a stem cell transplant.

Swanson said the experience taught him a few things about life.

“It definitely made me realize that you have to take chances if you want to get anywhere in life,” he said. “You have to live every day like it’s your last. You can think about it forever, but unless you take that jump, it’s not going to happen.”

So Swanson took his leap of faith. The result is a full-service salon with a streamlined modern interior and a strict customer-comes-first philosophy.

“You have to take chances if you want to get anywhere in life. You have to live every day like it’s your last. You can think about it forever, but unless you take that jump, it’s not going to happen.”

— Ryan Swanson

“We offer a very personal experience,” Swanson said. “A relaxed environment, but very upbeat. We’re all about customer service and quality.”

Amy Spencer, who’s known Swanson for a decade, recently joined his staff as appointments coordinator. She joined Swanson’s team of four because she knew the salon would offer a fun working environment.

“It’s a very positive atmosphere,” Spencer said. “It’s really team-oriented and supportive.”

The salon offers a full range of spa and styling services, including hair cut and style, chemical/color services, waxing, nail services, makeup application and wedding services upon consultation.

Swanson said he strives to offer his clientele the best of what the industry has to offer. He received his training at the Beauty Institute on Poplar Avenue and spent seven years as a stylist at Pavo in Laurelwood.

When he learned that Neuvo – a salon that previously occupied his salon’s space – was relocating to its own building, Swanson recognized his opportunity.

“It was time,” he said. “I’d reached my peak. And it was either stay and continue giving all my money away or branch off, and I’ve always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to be my own boss.”

Swanson put as much care into his building as he’s put into his service list and approach to customer service. He designed the salon himself, keeping only the burnt umber-stained concrete floors from the space’s previous occupant.

He moved the reception area to the front of the salon, creating a desk with a sleek metallic base that echoes the earth-toned color scheme. Creamy walls are set off by a series of modern paintings by local artist Charlie Ivey. Eight work stations feature modern black leather and brushed metal chairs and oversized wall mirrors in thick, ebony frames. The waiting area consists of a series of low-profile, black leather sofas.

“I wanted simple, clean lines,” Swanson said. “I used black because it’s very sleek and anything can go with it.”

A row of shampoo stations and private nail studio are set off from the rest of the space by a floating wall, where Swanson offers clients complimentary coffee and cucumber water. Shelves offer a range of hair, nail and body products, including SpaRitual, a line Swanson is proud to offer.

“It’s in places like Canyon Ranch – high-end spas around the country,” he said. “It’s a nail and body line out of Los Angeles that’s 100 percent vegan. The nail polishes don’t contain any formaldehyde or dangerous chemicals.”

Swanson hopes it’s the little details like these that will set his business apart from the competition and turn his leap of faith into a professional triumph.

“It’s very rewarding – or at least, hopefully it will be soon.”

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