Business owners Tommie Adams and Barry Kehler have worked to establish La Mirage Inc. in the area for two decades. Now in the same building with the Ocean View tanning salon I’d Rather Be Tanning, Adams and Kehler are bringing their hair styling studio and backroom boutique to another level.
Expectations are running high, as business is already improving, and customers have a variety of options when stopping in.
When it originally started out, La Mirage was just the new guy in town.
“We just took out a mortgage and did it,” said Adams. “We opened it up, and didn’t know what to expect. Now, 20 years later, we’re still doing it.”
Making a move to the Delaware shore was not a difficult decision for the two. “There’s a beauty shop on every corner,” said Adams. “Down here, people are much more welcoming and friendly, too.”
Adams and Kehler had worked out of Rehoboth Beach before moving to a location on Route 26 in Bethany Beach. After a nice run there, they have settled once again, in a quick turnover at the back west corner of the Raskauskus Retail Center, where Blockbuster video and Papa John’s pizzeria are located.
Adams said life in his former location in Pennsylvania was quite different from how he has been received in Sussex County.
“People wouldn’t even acknowledge that anyone existed in Harrisburg,” he said. “Down here, a woman flagged me down one time. I pass her as I headed into work each day, and I had noticed her. She recognized me as the owner of the salon, and said she’d stop by in 20 minutes.”
In response to the hospitable locals, the owners of La Mirage are eager to give back.
“One of the main reasons we went with this location is because of the elevators,” said Kehler. “We worry about the local people here a lot,” said Kehler. “We want to give them a place to come to. Now, they can get up here much easier.”
At their previous location, accessibility was a factor, as some clients were forced to look elsewhere due to an inconvenience with stairs. “As people get older,” said Kehler, “it’s not always easy for them to climb up 40 stairs. Now, it’s only been a matter of days, and we can already start to see a change in the number of people that come here.”
“There was one customer that we lost due to a stroke and was in a wheelchair,” said Adams. “She’s already found her way back here, and has easy access to the physical therapy office downstairs.”
Since teaming up with I’d Rather Be Tanning, business has been good for La Mirage, though the owners were a bit skeptical at first.
“Before we moved in here,” said Adams, “we kind of held off a little bit because we thought we might lose our identity. Fortunately, that was not the case, whatsoever. Everybody gets along incredibly. Our [customers and employees] are using their service, and their people are using ours. They mesh well.”
Although they just started business in Ocean View last week, La Mirage’s owners have been making friends and picking up clients.
“We had a lot of people telling us they’d help us out for a trade of our service,” noted Kehler. “They’d say, ‘I’ll paint this,’ or ‘I’ll fix that for a haircut.’ Everyone’s really been a big help. Every one of the locals have been good to us.”
The hair studio and boutique are run by both Adams and Kehler, with help from employees Sue Ritch and Santina Alimo. Each has more than 20 years of hair-styling experience.
“It’s nice to have access to the tanning,” said Ritch, “as well as run the boutique. I’ve never had something like this in all the years I’ve done hair.”
Ritch even makes some of the jewelry for sale in the boutique. After making the move, employees at La Mirage realized that they had increased their display area.
“We have more stuff now,” said Ritch, “and more room to put it up.”
Most of the other jewelry, primarily costume jewelry, is crafted in Texas. Designer-inspired purses and hand-made shoes from China also line the walls in the boutique. Customers can browse through selections of sweaters and belts, as well. Orders are delivered at least once every other week, promising a new, updated assortment for customers all the time.
The salon’s main line of products, including hair color, is Schwarzkopf, though a selection of many others is available. La Mirage has been a hot spot for wedding and prom-goers, and many customers have promised to return when Christmas shopping begins.
Debbie Davis, owner of I’d Rather Be Tanning, has enjoyed the increase in foot traffic that brings new customers to the building.
“[Prior to La Mirage,] we had all of this room back here,” said Davis, “but it was all storage. We had hoped to hear back from [Adams and Kehler]. It took a little longer, but it’s been working out great.”
La Mirage is located in Suite 204 on the second floor of the Route 26 shopping center, along with I’d Rather Be Tanning. For more information, call (302) 539-5618. For I’d Rather Be Tanning, call (302) 541-0103.