Fantastic Sams plans 100 salons in Maryland

Hair-care chain seeks to expand on East Coast

Franchises

November 04, 1999|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Fantastic Sams, the nation's biggest chain of franchised hair salons, is expanding into Maryland with a goal of opening 100 salons in five to 10 years.

The Anaheim, Calif.-based company has targeted the state as part of an aggressive push along the East Coast and in Northern California.

It plans company-owned and franchisee-operated stores in fast-growing areas of Maryland, Glenn Lewis, president of Owings Mills-based Fantastic Sams of Maryland, said yesterday.

Lewis, who bought rights in March to sub-franchise salons in Maryland and Delaware's Sussex County, is seeking sites for company-owned stores and gearing up to sell the first franchised locations.

The salons are similar to Hair Cuttery in that they compete on price -- with haircuts ranging from $12 to $15 -- while offering a full array of services, Lewis said.

Hair Cuttery and other chains such as Great Clips and Supercuts also operate in Maryland, but independent salons dominate in a state with more than 5,000 hair-service locations.

Lewis, a former tax attorney and consultant who wanted to start a business when he moved to Maryland a year and a half ago, was familiar with Fantastic Sams. He thinks there is growth potential because the industry is not dominated by national chains.

Fantastic Sams, founded 25 years ago in Tennessee, had grown to about 1,300 sites -- including about 1,000 in Canada, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan -- when it was sold to Opal Concepts Inc. in 1995.

Opal, the nation's No. 2 hair salon business, has been on a salon-chain buying binge and owns about 1,700 salons.

The company is second in size only to Regis Corp., which owns more than 3,600 salons under banners such as Supercuts and Trade Secret.

The United States has 350,000 beauty salons and barbershops, but no chain controls more than 3 percent of the $45 billion industry, said Jeff Stein, managing director of McDonald Investments in Cleveland.

"There's an ongoing consolidation in the industry," Stein said.

"The value concept is growing the fastest nationwide," he said, in part because it's easier to find locations in strip shopping centers than in malls.

Fantastic Sams has undergone a corporate reorganization under its new owners.

It began moving into new markets last year, starting with Arizona. This year, it has started selling franchises in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region, and in Northern California and the Philadelphia, Boston and New York markets.

Lewis has been looking in Montgomery County for sites for the first company-owned Fantastic Sams salons. The two existing Fantastic Sams in the state, one on Lombard Street in Baltimore and another in Laurel, have been run by franchisees for 10 years, Lewis said.

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