Parlour seeks to become a cut above the rest

MIDDLEBURY — Lisa Phelps and Megan Mandigo have always wanted to go into business together; they were just looking for the right venture at the right time.
Well, the stars have finally aligned. The duo on Aug. 30 opened “Parlour,” a full-service beauty salon and spa that makes good use of their respective talents.
Interestingly, it was Middlebury College’s athletic programs that brought the two women together. Lisa’s spouse is Michael Phelps, assistant (offensive) coach for the Panther football squad and baseball team. Megan’s husband is Doug Mandigo, the football team’s defensive coordinator and assistant coach for the softball squad.
Both women have children who are roughly the same age and a keen interest in entrepreneurship. And they noted they are both somewhat constrained by their husbands’ football responsibilities, which peak during the fall. This, in part, gave them the impetus to go into business together, melding their different skill-sets. 
“I kept saying, ‘You should really go into business with me,’” Phelps recalled. “I needed someone to help me with financials. (Megan) is very smart with business, and I knew together we could create a strong team.”
Lisa Phelps has been coloring and styling hair since she graduated from the Vermont College of Cosmetology back in 2000.
Megan Mandigo graduated from Middlebury College in February 2002. While she majored in biology and psychology, Mandigo has led a diverse professional life, ranging from home remodeling to being a special educator in the Addison Central Supervisory Union.
Phelps in 2000 began working as a hair colorist at Jac Huntley in Burlington, followed by a stint at the Ritz Carlton in Florida. But she returned to Vermont to practice her craft in Shelburne before launching the Briggs Carriage Co. in Brandon in November of 2014. Briggs Carriage Co. offered diverse hair styling and spa services.
Mandigo at this point had recently given birth to her third child, so she could not become as big a player in the new venture as she would have liked. She did, however, provide some accounting services to Phelps and vowed to become her business partner at a future date. Mandigo’s opportunity came very quickly, when Phelps decided earlier this year to relocate her enterprise to Middlebury — which happens to be home base for a vast majority of her clients.
“We were at the playground, and I said, ‘If I can move the business to Middlebury, would you join in with me?’” Phelps said. “She said ‘Yes,’ and we dove right in.”
Fortunately, Phelps’ landlord in Brandon — Kate Briggs — freed her from her lease for the Briggs Carriage space, and even gave the two women some advice on what they should negotiate in their future lease for what would become their joint venture: Parlour, at 8 Elm St. With help from their husbands, Phelps and Mandigo transformed the residence at the intersection of Elm and Seymour streets into a thriving enterprise providing haircuts and styling, color enhancements, nail and lashes care, waxing, and skin care.
Parlour also has an exclusive agreement with Tata Harper to use its all-natural skin products for facial treatments. Tata Harper is based in Shoreham.
Parlour’s staff includes Phelps, Mandigo, two specialists and two junior stylists. While Phelps and her crew tend to clients’ hair and skin needs, Mandigo divides her time between staffing Parlour’s front desk, bookkeeping, budgeting and purchasing supplies.
A tour of the building yields an inviting workspace, with comfy chairs and a mixture of modern amenities and re-purposed items from the old 8 Elm St. residence. For example, a few of the stylist/client stations are positioned in front of mirrors that have been affixed to some of the salvaged, wooden doors from the residence. 
Waxing and facial rooms offer soothing décor and privacy.
While Parlour opened less than a month ago, business has been brisk. Clients include many of Phelps’ regulars, along with new visitors and a copious crop of Middlebury College students — including football players.
“(Parlour) isn’t just for women,” Mandigo noted.
The partners are also pleased that 8 Elm St. is at the gateway of Exchange Street, home to Middlebury’s industrial park and a growing number of workers who are seeking services.
Mandigo spoke glowingly of a recent day when an 87-year-old woman came in to get her hair styled. Once she got up, a 5-year-old hopped into the chair.
“We are looking to create a space that is really community-oriented,” Mandigo said. “We are able to introduce people to each other who might not have met otherwise.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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