Loyal patrons flocked to the salon's celebration, whether they needed their hair done or not.
Design 2000 and its patrons have stuck together to create a space of beauty and community on Longboat Key over its 25-year tenure and celebrated that with a party Jan. 16.
Located in Whitney Beach Plaza, Design 2000 became a staple of the Longboat Key beauty and social scene when owners Sandy and Jim LaRose moved to the area from St. Louis and brought with them their expertise from running multiple salons. They’ve been running Design 2000 on Longboat Key with their son and daughter-in-law, Rick and Irina, since 1995.
“[The demographic in] St. Louis was professional, working women, always on the fast track,” Sandy said. “Here, we’ve developed a more intimate relationship with our clients, and we can be supportive of them on a deeper level because the island is such a unique environment. It’s very supportive, like a hometown community.”
The strong, female-centric community that Design 2000 itself has fostered was out in full force at the anniversary celebration; women mingled, snacked at the extensive spread and flipped through a photo book of memories over the years. Visitors stopped in for their usual appointments, came by to congratulate the LaRoses or just to see their friends, with one woman bringing homemade toffee as a gift for Sandy.
“Ladies will just come to hang out,” employee Michon Anderson said. “It’s all about being a good neighbor and a good friend.”
Design 2000 started as the “little salon” in what is now the Christ Church of Longboat Key’s offices but has been in its Whitney Beach location since 2000 after another salon vacated the space. Yet the salon, tucked behind the liquor store and somewhat hidden from view on Gulf of Mexico Drive, is still getting “discovered” after all these years.
“At least once a week, someone comes in and says: ‘I didn’t know you were here. Did you just open?’” Irina said.
Although they relish the idea of bringing in new customers, the salon’s solid crew of regulars keeps the business’ days vibrant. Some women had been going to the spot that Design 2000 occupies since before it was even there, others followed to the new spot from the “little salon” days, and still others, like Paula Sharp, have a more recent tradition of coming to the salon. Sharp, who got her hair done on the day of the anniversary, has been a client for three years.
“It’s like a family here,” Sharp said. The idea of family was echoed throughout the salon during the anniversary celebration by employees and patrons alike. Evidently, the two parties are on the same page about the depth of the created community.
“It’s like an extended family,” Sandy said. “That’s how we feel about them. I hope they feel that way about us.”