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Gulf & Main Magazine

Beauty on the Water - When it’s all about location, this salon outscores others

Jun 25, 2015 08:45AM ● By Kevin

Rumours Hair Design has everything you could want in a salon—bright, open spaces; impeccable cleanliness; a full menu of hair, skin and massage services; and a nautical theme bursting with whimsical charm. But the location has one unique characteristic that no other salon can match: It’s situated on a cozy, pale yellow houseboat that floats gently in the Yacht Basin located in the historic downtown Fort Myers River District.

I’m as transfixed by the creative details that surround me like the hand-painted desk in the center of the reception area, and the glass-blown fish ornaments dangling from the ceiling, as I am impressed by the steady floor under my feet. It certainly doesn’t feel like I'm standing on a boat. Owner Marcia Schwalm greets me with a cheerful smile as I step on board into the serene setting, and extends a warm hand with nails painted every color of the rainbow. She seems pleased that I’m eager to learn more about what she’s termed her literal labor of love.

R9“We built it from scratch,” Schwalm explains, her tightly wound curls bouncing softly around her shoulders as she speaks. “I cut every piece of fiberglass practically on this boat.” As I follow her up the spiral staircase, past a row of angel figurines that stand guard in the corner, she begins to explain how the idea came about.

“The new landlord said he was going to gut the building, and I’d have to relocate or I had to close down for six months,” she says of the original space her business had occupied for more than 20 years. “Well you can’t close down a business for six months.” So she began looking for an alternative space, but nothing she viewed felt like the right fit. “And the thought came to me about putting the salon on a boat, and things just fell into place.”

R12Though it took four years to build her new location while her landlord patiently renovated around her, her clientele seemed happy to work through her process. “People had to go through all sorts of stuff to get to the salon during the renovations.” Now in the distant past, it’s a situation she can laugh about. “They had to walk through the alley. When it rained, it flooded so they had to wade through water.” Staff and clients both were even made to use a porta-potty. “I decorated it all up with potpourri in it, and put nice pictures so if people did have to go to the bathroom they had nice experiences.”

Today, Schwalm’s dreams have been realized. The houseboat has been occupied for nearly six years, and her clients couldn’t be more thrilled. “People love being here. They feel like they got on a cruise ship and they went someplace whenever they get their hair done.”

The gamble has paid off and her business has grown dramatically, thanks mostly to the word-of-mouth marketing that is her primary technique, and Schwalm’s keen work ethic. “The first thing a lot of people do is they call somebody,” Rumors employee Caroline Hawker explains, “and they say ‘You’ll never guess, I’m getting my hair done on a boat!’”

“When you know that people are enjoying what you’ve got,” Schwalm’s confident smile reveals her satisfaction in her decision, “it’s an awesome thing.”

Written by Renee Novelle, an author and freelance journalist living in Southwest Florida.

If You Go

Rumours Hair Design 1300 Lee St., Fort Myers 239-332-3174