Whitehorse’s newest salon offers urban ambience
This story originally ran in the Spring 2014 (V8I1) edition of Yukon, North of Ordinary.
After years of patience and perfecting her vision, Stephanie Van Fleet proudly admires her sleek surroundings, perched on a black, leather sofa as beams of natural light fill the modern, monochromatic space. The excited energy she exudes is palpable.
"FRESH IDEAS CREATE FRESH OPPORTUNITIES."
“It exceeded my expectations. This is the ideal location for me to work,” Van Fleet says as she lovingly gazes around her new salon, Color Bar Hair Resort. “I’m speechless about how amazing it turned out. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of help from friends, family, architects, and my husband [Justin Van Fleet]. He did everything inside and helped me with the layout. We laid our own tile, did our own grout, and we designed the bar together.”
Van Fleet opened Color Bar in October 2012, aiming to bring a slice of southern metropolitan life to Whitehorse.
“There are a lot of talented stylists and salons in the Yukon, but I wanted to create something really modern and a work environment that I’d feel inspired by and inspired in,” she explains. “This is it. You’ve got a New York style salon with the true Yukon right outside the window.”
Besides its chic appeal, Van Fleet also aimed to introduce an innovative salon visit. As its moniker references, Color Bar features a large bar with stools tucked alongside where clients can sit and enjoy a complimentary gourmet coffee, witnessing their stylist mix together their new hue to be. Van Fleet heard about the concept at a hair show in Calgary years ago.
“Usually at all hair salons you’re in a back room mixing colour, you’re formulating, and it’s really quite an art. It’s not like you’re grabbing one box of colour. You’re mixing three or four different colours together, and it’s something that should be out in the front,” she explains.
Housed in the newly built Waterfront Station building along the Yukon River, Color Bar may be slightly off the beaten path of the downtown core, but Van Fleet says finding the perfect spot for the unique salon was extremely important. “I’d been waiting for the right location and the right building to come along. I wanted to do something where I could design a lot of the important things, like the floating stations, the island bar, and the island sinks.”
Originally from Richmond, B.C., Van Fleet came to the Yukon when she was 18 years old. A personal journey led her to Dawson City, where her father was born and raised. There she explored her Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in roots, spending time with him and other family. Professionally, she’d already completed her esthetics training and started working in Dawson as an esthetician at Hair Cabaret under owner Maria Fras.
“Back then, there wasn’t a strong demand for esthetics and I really was inspired by Maria,” she says. That inspiration led Van Fleet south again to study hair at Marvel BC School of Hair & Esthetics, in Vancouver. “I love it. It’s a great way to make a living because it’s ever changing, it’s creative, and you can learn so much. There’s never enough education in it.”
Seven years ago, Van Fleet made her way back to Whitehorse with every intention to put her new skills to work and to develop her very own Yukon atmosphere.
“I love the Yukon. I do crave going to the city, but I always want to come back here because it’s so beautiful and the people are great,” she says. “You’re also a bigger fish in a small sea, so there is a lot of opportunity. Fresh ideas create fresh opportunities.”
And Color Bar is devoted to keeping things fresh. The salon recently opened the first VersaSpa sunless tanning booth in the
Yukon. It is also the first to carry Bumble and bumble hair products—a hair-care line which requires prospective salons to go through a competitive application process in order to become an official reseller. Of course, Color Bar also offers a full range of services, from cut and colour to extensions and special occasion styling.
Van Fleet strongly believes in education for her employees, and also for her clients. Stylists on staff routinely receive hands-on training—locally and through Bumble and bumble. Plus, Color Bar will soon begin featuring classes for clients about product knowledge and self-styling.
“Whitehorse is getting trendier, but we’re not in the city all the time,” Van Fleet says. “The trends are changing every season, so it’s nice to be on top of it. You can never learn too much.”
Community is a huge part of the business plan, as well. Color Bar stylists regularly lend their talent at events in local shops and at charity fundraisers.
Van Fleet says she wants to make her mark by providing a comfortable, modern space that isn’t intimidating and where clientele don’t feel rushed.
“Bill Parry at Salon Centre Yukon once told me the best compliment ever is if someone gets off a plane in Whitehorse and asks where is the place to get a great haircut, and they say your salon,” Van Fleet explains. “I want to be that great haircut. I want someone to say Color Bar. That’s my goal.” Y