New village salon has a unique focus

26 Jul

You might say that Carmen Cong is an equal-opportunity hairdresser. She believes that everyone, regardless of their ability — or disability — should be able to get a haircut or facial or pedicure.

Believe it or not, that’s an uncommon philosophy in the hairdressing business, but one that Carmen has made the focus of her new salon.

Carmen Cong owns ELLA Salon, which she opened at 36 East Main Street in June. The very tastefully-appointed salon features four plush pedicure stations, manicure and hairdressing stations, and a separate room for facials and skin treatments. There’s a coffee pot for those (like me) who need caffeine pretty much everywhere we go, and a very friendly staff of nail technicians, hairdressers and aestheticians.

But the similarities between ELLA and other salons pretty much end there. Carmen’s deeply caring nature has taken her business far beyond that.

Hairdressing has always been her passion. “I’ve been doing hair since I was a kid; I was the girl on the porch braiding everyone’s hair.” But “I’ve always liked to help people,” too, she said. A few years ago she realized how she could combine those passions and make a real difference.

That difference is a completely handicapped-friendly salon.

“I really believe every person regardless of disability should be able to feel beautiful and have access to the same services that others do,” Carmen said. So she’s stocked her salon with handicapped-friendly equipment. She’s got a “hair funnel,” for example, for people who can’t lean back to get their hair washed. The facial room is wheelchair accessible, and the table is fully adjustable. Pedicure basins can be brought to a wheelchair for customers who have difficulty getting into the lounges.

Owner Carmen Cong

But it was an event in her own life which prompted probably the most wonderful accommodation of all.

Three years ago, Carmen’s youngest daughter Maya was diagnosed with autism. Raising a child with autism was an eye-opening experience. As any parent doing so knows, even simple tasks can sometimes become monumental challenges, like getting dressed, eating a meal, and picking up toys.

And getting a haircut.

Children with autism commonly get upset when people touch them, or by strange sounds, or feelings, like when scissors cut through hair. They often have difficulty sitting still for extended periods of time. A simple haircut, which might normally take only 15 minutes, could easily turn into a two-hour long (or longer) ordeal for child and parent.

Carmen is totally OK with that.

The first thing she does is interview the parent to find out what the child’s needs are, and what kinds of accommodations need to be made, like a portable swing, a small trampoline, or simply room to spin. Then she’ll set up an appointment for the child and spend as much time as necessary to help make the child feel comfortable…and beautiful.

“If I have to close the shop and spend several hours, that’s OK,” she said. “It’s not about the money.”

“Salons are not about promoting something like that,” she added. Well, until now, that is.

* * *

ELLA Salon is located at 36 East Main Street. The name is pronounced “Ᾱ’-yah,” which means “she” or “her” in Spanish, but customers of the male persuasion are also more than welcome. Services include everything from hair care to nail care, parafin treatments and keratin treatments, manicures and pedicures. Call her at 585-209 ELLA (3552) or check out the website here.

Even if you don’t need a service, stop in and meet Carmen. She is easily one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and her commitment to helping people — especially kids — will inspire you. She is a terrific addition to our village.

 

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