At Glen Lake Beauty Salon, the torch is passed to Sara Sanborn


Photo: Glen Lake Beauty Salon’s new owner Sara Sanborn

By Katie Dunn

Sun contributor

The beauty salon rightfully stands as a pillar in any town, serving not just as a place for physical edification, but also as a cornerstone of the community. Indeed, the beauty salon is more than a destination for a great blow-out or a fab mani-pedi. It is a sanctuary of sorts—a place where friendships are forged, stories are shared, and confidence is nurtured.

Glen Lake Beauty Salon embodies this very concept, offering a panoply of premiere beauty services while also providing warmth to, and solace for, its many patrons.

Thus, it is a most significant—and very fortuitous—development for Glen Arbor that Sherri Ricard, the beloved owner of the Beauty Salon, sold her business to longtime, devoted partner, Sara Sanborn, in early June. This proverbial passing of the torch has been met with a collective sigh of relief from the community.

Holly Reay, a loyal client of the Beauty Salon, recognized that this comforting, logical transition has not only had a positive impact on the Glen Arbor community, but also has represented a milestone for Sanborn herself.

“I can think of no one better to take the helm…It’s a wonderful thing to see this generational turnover,” Reay enthused.

Ricard purchased the salon in 2010 while Sanborn was working under the tutelage of then-owner Marylin Domine. Sanborn’s position at the Beauty Salon was not disrupted during that organizational change. The continuity that Sanborn provided was something for which Ricard has been deeply grateful. Ricard’s appreciation for Sanborn’s constancy and acumen endures.

“Sara had been working with the previous owner, and thankfully stayed on when I took over. Honored to acquire the salon; doubly blessed to have [Sanborn] for my partner all these years. I have watched her evolve into an incredible, talented ‘Super Rockstar Master Stylist.’ She never ceases to amaze me with her work,” Ricard shared.

For Sanborn, to assume the helm of the Beauty Salon is nothing short of a professional and personal triumph.

“I have had great guidance over the 17 years that I have been here and have worked hard to build a fabulous clientele whom I am so thankful for. Both have prepared me to take on this next chapter in my career! I am excited to have reached the achievement of owning my own salon and humbled by the overwhelming support of my amazing clientele, family, and friends,” Sanborn shared.

Maria Dotterwich, a Glen Arborite and faithful patron, opined about this most promising development.

“Sherri established a high-quality salon with a very nice atmosphere. Sara is a kind, interesting, and humorous person; it’s a pleasure to spend time with her. She’s a good listener on all fronts. I’m thrilled Sara will take over the salon, both because we appreciate her work and the convenient location, but also because it’s a great opportunity for her to continue as a stylist while growing new skills. Congratulations for stepping out,” Dotterwich said.

The trajectory of Sanborn—from a young girl fascinated with beauty, styling, and cosmetology to now being a beauty salon owner in her own right—is, in a sense, destiny. It also stands as a testament to her perseverance, expertise, and the well-earned respect Sanborn has garnered over the years.

“Just being in a salon was inspiring as a child. The desire was always there, the love of being in the space…As far back as I can remember, I just loved going to get my hair cut and smell the salon smells!”

Sanborn’s initial foray into styling was on her Barbie doll, and later, her sister.

“I first practiced on my Barbie, then my sister. Then I would treat myself to nice salon spas in Traverse for updos for school dances in high school. Even today I enjoy a spa facial for self-care treatment,” Sanborn said.

Sanborn is a veritable daughter of the Leelanau County, having grown up in Empire and attending Glen Lake Community Schools from grades K through 12. From there, she received her cosmetology certification—a two-year program—from Traverse Bay Area Career Tech Center.

Sanborn’s commitment to cosmetology is laudable, as is the industry itself.

Vidal Sassoon, the legendary hairstylist and entrepreneur, recognized the relevance of the beauty salon: “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” His words illustrate, and strongly affirm, how the beauty salon symbolizes personal transformation and empowerment.

Regrettably, despite the profound impact and critical function that the beauty salon provides, it often has been misperceived as frivolous, self-indulgent, or one-dimensional. This unfortunate sentiment is particularly pronounced in societies dominated by patriarchy where the substantial social, economic, and cultural contributions of predominantly-female occupations are frequently overlooked.

Happily, history belies this wrongful assumption. The phenomenon and legacy of the beauty salon traces back to ancient civilizations. Its longevity illustrates its integral role to humanity.

Egypt likely marks the infancy of the beauty salon. There, grooming and cosmetics were highly valued. Individuals would gather at communal spaces for personal beautification. While beauty salons, proper, did not exist, there were professionals who provided beauty services. Such practices included the use of kohl for eye makeup, henna for hair dye, and various oils and perfumes for skincare.

Similarly, in Ancient Rome, beauty and self-maintenance were indispensable aspects of daily life, reflecting social status, personal identity, and cultural values. Romans placed tremendous emphasis on appearances and grooming, with both women and men dedicating considerable time and resources on maintaining their appearances. The Romans’ consistent, abiding commitment to personal care was not merely superficial; it held significant cultural and social importance.

During the Middle Ages, Europe witnessed a decline in the use of cosmetics and personal grooming services, partly due to the influence of the Church, which viewed such practices as vain or sinful. Modesty and ascetism were, instead, promoted.

Nevertheless, the notion of beauty and self-care never waned during the succeeding ages. Instead, it proliferated.

One of the most notable milestones in its evolution was the establishment of Paris’ first beauty salon at the behest of Madame Martha Matilda Harper. She is widely credited with revolutionizing the beauty industry. Her salon brought a level of professionalism and specialization to beauty services. Of equal importance, Harper created a space for female affirmation.

From Paris, the beauty salon migrated to New York City. Already a burgeoning metropolis, and a melting pot of diverse cultures, New York provided an ideal environment for the beauty salon to flourish. It served as a catalyst for the industry’s spread across the United States. As the city’s influence radiated outward, smaller urban centers and rural areas, including places like Northern Michigan, began to adopt and adapt the salon concept to meet local demand.

In magical Leelanau County and neighboring Traverse City, the arrival of the beauty salon brought not just innovative cosmetic treatments, but also a sense of sophistication and community. These beauty salons became integral social venues where residents could congregate, socialize, and avail themselves of proper self-nurturing.

Over the past decades, Ricard, in downtown Glen Arbor has cultivated this vital tradition. She now is moving home to Bay City. Ricard is both grateful for her long, venerated career at the Glen Lake Beauty Salon, and most optimistic about her own next chapter.

“After 25 wonderful years, I’ve retired from this business and am looking forward to the next part of our journey…Swim more, go to our home in Florida more…One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my experience here …is to try to be calmer and love so much harder. Now I’m going to try and slow down and pay more attention to what’s most important in life,” Ricard said.

The deep importance of self-care—which both Ricard and Sanborn have nurtured—has been forcefully demonstrated in such timeless, iconic movies as Steel Magnolias and Legally Blonde. Those films poignantly underscore, and immortalize, the pertinence of the beauty salon as a place of succor.

Steel Magnolias’ beauty salon proprietor, Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton), shared her own insights on the intimacy and safety that the beauty salon provides: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

The inimitable Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) of Legally Blonde, after feeling ostracized as a student of Harvard Law, sought comfort and reassurance at the local beauty salon: “So, I went to the salon because I needed to feel better.”

These shared sentiments encapsulate the substantial weight of the beauty salon: a refuge, a haven, a port in both good times and troubled ones.

Sanborn is cognizant of the importance of her new mission, governing this essential space of both beauty enhancement and emotional elevation.

“Having the salon is living proof that I have climbed the heights I have dreamt of for myself and my career. I have my own ‘studio’ to create art. A place for others to feel beautiful and confident,” Sanborn said.

As an aside, I would be entirely remiss not to share my lived experience as a devoted client of Sanborn. Through both the joys and challenges of my life—particularly during one difficult, dark season of mine—Sanborn stood and served as a very bright, steady beacon. For that, I am endlessly grateful. Sanborn delivers beauty—on the inside and out. Godspeed, my dear friend, and see you next week for my mani-pedi!