Not unlike the local restaurant business, the hair salon scene in New Tampa has been pretty volatile the last two decades. It’s therefore pretty impressive that Marc and Kelly Rockquemore, who are now the proud owners of three New Identities Hair Studios in the Tampa Bay area — including two right here in New Tampa — have not only survived, but thrived during that span.
The Rockquemores opened their first New Identities Hair Studio in what was then called the Palm Lake at Tampa Palms (now the Shoppes at Amberly) shopping center 17 years ago, which means I’ve known them for 18 years, because they came into my office in that same plaza looking for advertising for the salon several months before it opened.
Since then, the Rockquemores have opened a second successful New Identities salon in the Riverview/Apollo Beach area that they refer to as their “South Shore” location, and have now opened their third studio — and hosted a Feb. 7 North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting — in the space in the Publix-anchored New Tampa Center plaza on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. that most recently was occupied by Bella Mia hair salon.
The 1,400-sq.-ft. space also previously was home to the second Bostonian Hair Salon. Marc admits that Bostonian owner Joseph Caetano was something of a role model for them, as Caetano’s salons were well-known throughout the area for high-quality, affordable hair services provided by professionally-trained stylists and hair color specialists.
“Even though Joseph (now 84 years old) no longer owns a salon in this market,” Marc say, “his success paved the way for salons like ours. The key for us is being able to sustain that success long-term.”
Maintaining success hasn’t really been an issue for the Rockquemores, who opened the new salon on BBD with some of the popular stylists from the Tampa Palms location.
“I just think that Kelly and I have both have been relentless in our pursuit of success, by our own definition,” Marc says. “We’re always working to make this thing better all the time and we’ve been fortunate to have great people who have stayed with us long-term.”
Kelly adds, “We had to open another salon up here. We were having two stylists working at each station in Tampa Palms.”
The Rockquemores say they started looking for a new salon sometime last summer and quickly found the New Tampa Center location. They were open by November.
“We did a lot of the work ourselves, whatever we could do,” Kelly says. “It all came together pretty quickly.”
The new New Identities, which has a total of ten stations available, already has eight stylists, four of whom came from the “overcrowded” Tampa Palms studio, but Marc says, “We still have room for more here, and we’ve been getting some outstanding applicants.” At New Identities, stylists have to be properly trained, and clients pay different rates for the same services, based on the level of a stylist’s training.
They both credit advertising in not only the New Tampa but also the Wesley Chapel edition of the Neighborhood News with helping them get the new salon started off right.
“It hasn’t been easy getting this place open and running properly,” Marc admits, “but it’s truly been a blessing to us so far.”
New Identities specializes in “anything to do with hair, including hair styling for men and women, coloring, perms, relaxers and even extensions. “We definitely are known for our color specialists,” Kelly says.
The salon also specializes in playing a vital role in the biggest day of a woman’s life. “Our Bridal Services primarily consist of hair design up-dos, shampoo & blow dries), as well as makeup application,” Kelly says. “Let us take care of your entire wedding party!”
Your Stylists, Your Salon
The Rockquemores are somewhat skeptical about the rise of “Salon Suites,” where stylists (or other beauty industry professionals) can rent a space, set their own hours and “be their own boss.”
“But, some states, like New Jersey, are banning the salon suites because it’s easier to avoid paying taxes on what you make,” Marc says. “Those booth rental people are independent contractors, whereas we work on commission and offer employee benefits and continuing education training.”
Kelly adds, “A lot of those people get stuck at a certain level because they don’t want to have to pay out of their own pocket for education. Here, everytime you receive more training, you have an opportunity to earn more money.”
Marc adds that he has very strong opinions about booth rentals because, “all you’re doing is renting a 10-foot-by-10-foot space in a store. You’re not incorporated, you don’t have employees or have to pay business taxes, you’re not inspected and on and on and on. You’re not a business owner, but that’s what the stylists are being sold.”
Marc says that he and Kelly were particularly proud to have been named the “Best Hair Salon in New Tampa & Wesley Chapel” in the recent Neighborhood News Reader Survey & Contest. In addition to those accolades, New Identities has been the official salon of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Storm cheerleaders, and most recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning girls. The Tampa Palms location was featured on the HBO series “Hard Knocks” last summer, when Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander (photo, above left) took the advice of teammate (and New Identities client) Gerald McCoy, and came to New Identities for a new color job.
“We do a lot to make sure people know who we are (including possibly being a sponsor of the upcoming Taste of New Tampa, see pg. 3),” Marc says, “but Kwon being filmed here for ‘Hard Knocks’ was a great bonus.”
For appointments at the New Tampa New Identities Hair Studio (19038 BBD Blvd.), call (813) 579-1575. For Tampa Palms (15307 Amberly Dr.), call (813) 979-0760. For the South Shore studio (10639 Big Bend Rd. in Riverview), call (813) 741-1177. For more info, visit NewIdentitiesSalon.com or the Facebook pages for any of the locations.