Carmen Gauer-Wigmans knew from her first foray into cosmetology at Sylvania Northview High School that it was not only something she enjoyed and had talent for, but something she could see herself doing for the rest of her life. After graduating from their vocational program, she spent several years working at other salons before deciding it was time to open her own.
"I wanted to build my clientele and gain education and exprience, but once I did that, I knew I wanted to own my own business," she recalled.
After finding a location on North Holland-Sylvania Road, she made te small space a trendy, progressive salon, officially opening in 1987. It was bold move for the 23-year-old Carmen, but one that paid off. It also wasn't the last big leap the entrepreneur would make. Using money that she inherited from her great-grandparents and a small business loan to open the salon, she immediately saw growth with the business and began thinking about expansion. Over the next few years, she traveled all over, from Toronto to California, looking into an indea that would relatively new to Toledo: a day spa.
She found a building in Sylvania with long-term potential and she and her husband began renovating. Carmen wanted to make therapeutic services the focus.
"I wanted to offer clients more of an experience, a more relaxing environment," she said. "At the time, there wasn't anything like it in Toledo."
The renovation created buzz for the salon: they were recognized as on of the top projects by the Sylvania Improvement Corporation and their ad agency won an Addy Award for their logo. They held a holiday party in December 1998, to which they invited clients to see the progress and plans. Meanwhile, Carmen had continued working full-time at her other salon while also hiring staff for the new location. Reve Salon and Spa opened in April 1999, taking up the first floor and messanine level; in 2005, they completed renovations on the second and third floor of their 11,000 square foot building by installing a four-stop elevator and finishing the 2nd and 3rd floors, along with a dramatic new front facade made entirely of glass panels.
"That was probably the most challenging time in the business, being in construction while open," Carmen described. "When a jack hammer goes off outside a spa, that's really not a good thing!"
Despite growing pains, the newly renovated salon and spa has continued to be one of the most successful in the area. Carmen had the foresight to include services like their Vichy Showers service, which is a therapy service where a person lies down on a cushioned waterproof table and is showered by eight overhead water jets while receiving one of the many body treatments from the menu like fresh buttermilk and honey or detoxifying mud.
The first floor consists of a coffee bar and retail area, carrying exclusive lines that can't be found anywhere else locally, as well as their traditional day spa services, with their hair salon on the mezzanine; the second floor holds Cosmedica, where clients can get injectables, skin peels and other more medically focused treatments, as well as take advantage of private suites for express, all-in-one spa treatments; their third floor consists of 11 or more hair stylists' chairs, manicure stations and a pedicure room. Thier third floor also won a design award, including a skylight sculpture made by local artists.
"We have so many different areas, layers and textures," Carmen said. "My husband has a great eye for design and we've mixed a lot of old elements of the building with a modern touch that really adds a warmth."
Beyond offering her clients exceptional services and amazing service, Carmen still finds the work she first fell in love with to be as fulfilling as ever. While still working with clients on a regular basis behind the hair stylists' chair, she has found another passion. After spending years making her dreams come true for her business, she wants to focus on the dreams of others.
"Our advanced training program helps young stylists skip the mistakes often made early on so they can hit the ground running," she offered. "I love showing them that this can be a lucrative, fulfilling career."