Gayle Reuling is in the business of beauty. Armed with a keen eye and a pair of scissors, she creates stylish, flattering looks that help women feel good about themselves. And while she may be an expert in highlights and lowlights, her greatest gift is in her ability to lighten the hearts of her clients and her team.
The founder and co-owner of Air Salon & Blow Dry Bar, Reuling has cultivated an environment where service is paramount. She is a firm believer that customer service is an outgrowth of employee fulfillment and takes great pride in providing opportunities for young people to excel in the beauty industry.
Reuling’s career includes modeling, makeup design, hair and wardrobe styling. In the 10 years prior to opening Air, she was a solo practitioner working out of her attic. In 2010, she was ready to embark on a new adventure but was wary about opening a conventional hair salon in the area. The solution came to her during a trip to Los Angeles where she visited a blow dry salon for a service. “I called Mike and told him I knew what I wanted to do,” she explained. “Blow dry bars were a new concept at the time, and I was intrigued by the possibility of nurturing fresh, young stylists. By adding a full scope of salon services, they could grow from drying and styling to haircuts and color.” Reuling wanted to do more than provide employment; she wanted to provide careers. Her concept for Air included offering health insurance, vacation time, and career development and training in a non-competitive environment.
Steadfast in her faith, she said it did not take long to receive confirmation she was on the right path. When the couple found their “ideal location,” they discovered it was out of their price range. After the property owner learned of their dream, he offered to do what he could to help make their vision a reality, telling them, “When you have a dream this big, you should never minimize it.”
And if that confirmation wasn’t enough, just a few weeks before opening the salon, the Reulings were prepping the site when they saw a young woman they had just hired peeking through the window. She was with her children, showing them where their mom would be working. “It was a humbling experience to see how we were already impacting people’s lives,” she said. “Five years later, we’ve expanded to three locations and more than 65 employees. It is a blessing to watch our dream blossom into something even bigger than we imagined.”
The couple, who has been married since 2001, share the philosophy that service begins at home. Their blended family includes a daughter, and six sons—one of whom is a foster child they added to their family following Hurricane Katrina—along with four grandsons and one granddaughter. Being outnumbered by men in her life is nothing new. She grew up in the middle of four brothers, a circumstance she believes contributed to her choice of career. “I had unruly, curly hair, and my mom didn’t even know how to put it into pigtails. I had no choice but to learn! As my career progressed, I realized my gift was bigger than helping people feel better by helping them look better. It was also in the time I took to listen, to care and to offer kind words of support. I truly believe this is my calling. Every day I pray for the Lord to give me the ability to see people the way He wants me to see them,” she said.
It is no surprise that Air’s values are a reflection of its owners. Service, teamwork, growth and respect are at the core of everything the stylists do day in and day out. “We encourage our team and empower them to be the best they can be. In turn, they help our clients look and feel the best they can,” she said.
One tradition the Reulings have established is to take all employees celebrating their birthdays to lunch at Commander’s Palace. The monthly events are much-anticipated, grand affairs where customer service is as exceptional as the menu offerings. “We treat our team members to an extraordinary experience that shows our appreciation and also reminds them of how nice it feels to be pampered. We want them to strive to elicit that same feeling in our clients,” she said.
“Our goal at Air is to initiate a transformation on the inside as well as on the outside,” she continued. “As artists, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Beauty is not just about how you look. It is about how you feel.”
Air Salon and Blow Dry Bar has three locations: 125 N. Theard St., Covington, 1111 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville and 3535 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge. Learn more at airdrybar.com.