An entrepreneur must have a unique kind of spunk to open a business, even more so during a pandemic.
Justine McManus has that grit, not to mention the stamina and perseverance to be able to see past current conditions and envision what her business can and will look like when life returns to normal.
McManus had the building blocks of owning a retail business in place when she purchased Tropix Sun & Swim, a tanning salon and retail outlet, in 2007, when she was just 24 years-of-age. A graduate of Seneca College’s fashion merchandise and retail management program, she had always worked in retail and looked forward to the day when she could own her own business.
She weathered the inevitable bumps in the road that every entrepreneur experiences, growing her investment and eventually purchasing a second business, JB’s Lingerie, five years ago.
McManus had been toying with the idea of a re-brand for Tropix when news of the pandemic began to spread in early March. The tanning salon’s most profitable season runs through the winter months, with many of its clients preparing to or returning from travel. Her staff was nervous about the possible spread of the virus.
She made the decision to close the salon about a week before the province declared a state of emergency and all businesses went into lockdown. That was Mar. 17, 2020, and Tropix has remained closed since then. She’s seen two more lockdowns since then, at the end of December 2020 and again in early April 2021, both falling during the time when she would have been busiest. It never made sense to reopen at a time when she knew she wouldn’t be busy.
What the shutdowns did provide her with was time to put together a strategy for her eventual reopening and the rebranding of the salon. She wanted to do it once, and do it right, knowing there might not be another opportunity, saying “I had one chance and I didn’t want to overextend myself. I might not be able to do this again.”
“This year has been hard on all of us, emotionally, financially and socially,” said McManus. “I think many business owners would agree that there has been a time through COVID where they have questioned if owning a business is still right for them. But I also know that as an entrepreneur we love the creativity we can have, we love the work, we appreciate our community and want to be an important part of it. When we were faced with lockdowns and were no longer in control of our own happy place it felt like defeat. But you don’t getting into business unless you have a stubborn heart, and that’s how I’ll always remember the beginning of The Bronze Bar.”
Her vision of the new salon would require significant redesign and construction in its current space. Using her own funds to pay for the renovations, she soon reached her first hurdle – the lack of available construction supplies. She had to wait until product was available, and then bought virtually everything she might need in one purchase. Favours were called in from family and friends to help with some of the interior work, and professionals were brought in to complete the rest.
McManus says when the new front entry door was installed in early November, “I knew I could do this. It’s been a step-by-step process for me.”
She has added some new products to her line of lotions, goggles, balms and enhancers and is particularly excited about new tanning-bed bulbs that provide red light therapy. The bulbs increase oxygen and circulation in the skin, improving the ability to tan and the overall appearance of skin. Gift certificates are also available.
On Sept. 15, after months of making plans and re-making plans to meet protocols of the pandemic, McManus will welcome back her existing and new clients to The Bronze Bar. She has set aside Sept. 15-18 as the days when customers can register their accounts. She will open the tanning beds for appointments beginning Sept. 21.
Customers can either come in the store to register, or go online at www.thebronzebar.ca. Every client must sign a liability waiver at the time of registration in order to set up an account. A login and password will be provided, allowing them to book tanning spots the following week. Pre-existing customers who had minutes remaining on their account will have the time transferred to their new account upon registration. Store staff will be on hand to answer any questions and can be reached via text at 519-396-7861.
McManus readily admits there have been sleepless nights and additional stress as she has learned to navigate the challenge of launching a rebranded business, especially during such difficult and constantly changing economic times, but firmly believes in the end, it will all have been worth it.
“The amount of support I have received from Tropix customers has been heartwarming,” said McManus. “Over the years our customers have become friends. We share stories about ourselves, our family and they bring photos of their trips. I have missed this more than I could have imagined. I can’t wait to open our doors to both old and new clients, so we can show them the changes and improvements we have made.”
The Bronze Bar is located at 928 Queen Street in Kincardine. On Sept. 15, 16 and 17, the salon will be open from noon – 6 p.m. and on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent