At first glance, the striking brick building painted jet black in the middle of Main Street in Olde Town Elkhorn looks like its renovated 100-year-old neighbors. Even though Prim Beauty Parlour has only been there a few months, owner Jami Gragert meticulously picked out each fixture and piece of furniture to give the new salon and spa its clean, vintage feel for an ideal, open work space for the two dozen Beauty Artist business owners who rent space there.
Gragert knew she wanted to go to cosmetology school as young as 6th grade, having grown up reading her aunt’s cosmetology books. “I have a strong passion for creating beauty on people and in my surroundings,” she said. Gragert started working in salons at age 15, and has been involved in every facet of the industry, from selling salon products to working in a plastic surgeon’s office. At one point she rented her own space but wasn’t happy with the environment. “I wanted to open a place where we brought back an exceptional experience for both the business owner and the client,” she said. “I wanted to also support and inspire other beauty artists and help them build their businesses.”
She found what she felt would be the perfect location in downtown Elkhorn and quickly purchased the empty lot along Main Street. “I love the sense of community downtown, our clients can walk next door and eat at one of the restaurants or pop into the shops after their service,” Gragert said. She purchased the lot five years ago, and two years later she and her husband and two daughters decided to sell their family home so they could focus on building out the salon, which took another two years. Gragert wrote the business plan, secured the financing, and designed every aspect of the building, collecting décor along the way that she kept in a storage unit.
The result is a stunning, two-story space with an open floor plan for stylists on the main level and individual spa rooms on the upper level. “The ambiance and design was important to me,” Gragert said, adding that she wanted clients to feel like they were in a high-end salon and spa. With the motto displayed prominently behind the front desk, “Green Beauty, Good Vibes,” Prim Beauty Parlour defines everything Gragert had dreamed it would be. All the way down to the lines of green beauty products she personally tried and curated for three years before bringing them into the salon.
Building out the salon was a long process, but finding stylists to rent space came easily, especially once word got out about the opportunity and quickly spread. Stylist Lisa Lingenfelter and aesthetician Jan Gilsdorf were both taking breaks from their careers to stay home with kids when they found out about Prim. Both were hesitant to jump in and rent space but said it has been well worth the risk. “Everyone is so talented and willing to help each other grow,” Lingenfelter said. “It’s just inspiring, and you feed off the energy here.” Lingenfelter, who has 15 years experience, shares this passion with her mother whom is also a hair stylist. With that, Lingenfelter has been around the industry her entire life and believes that is what instilled the desire to be in this profession. “There is nothing more rewarding than making someone feel beautiful,” she said.
Gilsdorf, who specializes in facials, dermaplaning, eyebrow waxing, and makeup application, was able to recruit other artists she knew and share space with them. She has visited hundreds of salons and spas around the country as a skin care trainer and said she recognizes a good thing when she sees it. “I was able to envision the space before it was done,” she said. “Prim is a dream space, and Jami is a dream boss to work with. Every one of my clients who was with me before I came here has told me what a good decision this was.’
Esthetician Anna Schwab met Jami when she first moved to Omaha from Louisiana 10 years ago and said Jami encouraged her to go to Esthetics school. “I’ve always been interested in skin care, and during school I fell in love with facials,” she said. The European techniques she uses for her facials are focused on relaxation, which she said sets her service apart from others. She stands during the facials, which she said provides an optimum experience for her clients. “I’m a natural pamperer, and I love giving my clients a relaxing experience beyond what they normally would get elsewhere. Many of my clients are busy moms, so I know how important it is to have that full hour for yourself.”
Being a mentor to other female business owners is also important to Gragert, and she wants to be an example to her daughters that hard work pays off and they too can be influential leaders. Her family has since moved back into a home, and Gragert said she’s so humbled at the sacrifices her husband and children made so she could go after her dream. “I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” she said. “All of our artists and the visual allure here are authentic. We want everyone to feel comfortable and rejuvenated during and after a service. The experience at Prim is is what sets us apart and means everything to us.”