When Mike and Charla Johnson opened Terramé Day Spa and Salon back in 2003, they were already ahead of their time. With an untapped market in Huntsville, Alabama, the couple was eager to translate their years of experience in the hair salon industry into a luxurious spa with a range of services. The more they researched the idea, the more sense it made—despite the fact that spas were a relatively new concept in the Huntsville area.
Nowadays, Terramé is a thriving family-owned business with three locations in Midtown, Jones Valley, and Madison.
With its commitment to family and company culture, Terramé has become an employer of choice for local stylists. The Johnsons have forgone the typical independent contractor employment model in favor of full-time employment and apprenticeships for its employees—a move that drives loyalty and low employee turnover.
It’s a move that has also set Terramé apart as a company that puts employees ahead of profits. In an industry where new stylists often have to work a few different jobs to make ends meet, the Johnson’s decided to implement a business model where employees could be paid a salary and become financially secure right from the start.
With the apprenticeship model, even someone without prior experience and training has an opportunity to cut their teeth in the salon industry. By way of example, Mike mentions one employee for whom they create an apprenticeship, helping her avoid having to pay the high price of going to school. “She’s phenomenal,” says Mike, “and crazy good.”
“This really is a labor of love. Charla and I wake up every day [thinking] it’s our job to make every one of our employees successful,” adds Mike, whose brothers, Jeff and Charles, also work in the business—Jeff, a talented veteran hairstylist, and Charles, an exceptional marketer.
That’s the magic of Terramé. With a culture built on mutual respect, trust, and family-like values, the spa has the equivalent of what Mike calls the “golden egg.” “You never do anything to hurt the golden egg and our team, our staff members, our family. That’s the most important thing we do every day,” says Mike.
In turn, employees are happy and fulfilled in their work and then deliver great service to their clients every day. The goal is to make every customer experience a special one, whether they’re regular or first-time clients. “You may walk in for the very first time and have saved money all year long to come and have a spa day,” says Charla. “So you get the same treatment as someone that comes every week.”
Perhaps that’s the secret to Terramé’s success—one that has allowed the spa to flourish and even open a third location, in Madison, during the pandemic. That location had been three years in the making as the Johnsons secured a piece of land and worked through the planning process. It just so happened that the groundbreaking took place about 30 days before COVID hit.
Although it was an unprecedented and uncertain time when salons and spas were among the hardest hit, the Johnsons decided that moving forward with their plans was the best and only option. “There was really no turning back at that point,” says Mike. “We had a heart-to-heart and said, ‘We’re good at this. We got to do it.”
Big drivers for their decision to expand included overcrowding at their other two salons, along with a desire to continue creating opportunities for more stylists.
Madison has embraced the new location with open arms, eager to experience the magic of Terramé, especially in an era when self-care and great customer service have become paramount. The Terramé trio of salons currently offers not only hair services, including a blow dry bar, but also massages, facials, hydrotherapy, makeup, nails, spray tans, and more.
The Johnsons have built a business that continues to stay on the cutting edge (pardon the pun) of the salon and spa business and offer continuing education opportunities to its staff. Recently, the Johnsons decided to prioritize teaching stylists how to work with black hair. This ultimately resulted in a new full-time role for a local stylist who initially agreed to teaching a seminar on technical skills for black hair for Terramé hair stylists.
It’s just one example of how the Johnsons remain ahead of the curve to create not only a successful business, but a place where employees and customers alike feel supported, seen, and valued. “We can package it as a massage or a haircut, but we sell feel-good [experiences],” says Mike. “And when we can deliver that every day, we win.”