In The News

Start-Up Story: By Design

Cassy Harrelson

If you work in or around Simmons Tower, chances are good you’ve seen the small salon, By Design, in the southeast corner of the lobby. Cassy Harrelson has owned and operated the salon since 2009, but she’s been a part of the business for much longer than that. In 1995 she became a part-owner but sold her half of the business when she moved to California in 2000. Lucky for us, she moved back to Arkansas in 2009, bought the business outright, and has been running the popular downtown salon ever since.

Cassy is a certified nail technician with decades of experience, but when she began her journey, she might not have predicted just where she would end up. Her whole career started when she decided that she wanted to try to learn how to do her own nails. She really liked this new hobby and seemed to have a knack for it, so she began doing manicures for friends and family out of her own home. When she realized that she could actually go to nail school and get officially licensed, it just seemed like the most natural choice. So that’s just what she did, but she didn’t start working in a salon right away. Cassy was a stay at home mom for many years and was able to run her nail business out of her home. She had never even worked in a salon until she started at By Design in 1995 and just look at her now!

Cassy loves working downtown. The heavy foot traffic around the building keeps things interesting and helps her stay connected with her customers. Plus, most stylists have to work on Saturdays, but not Cassy. Because the building closes on the weekends, she doesn’t have to keep regular salon hours and she’s grateful for the freedom that brings.

By Design is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., though they are flexible to accommodate customers. Services provided include haircuts and coloring, extensions, styling, waxing, and of course, manicures and pedicures! Walk-ins are almost always welcome, but appointments are encouraged. So next time you need to spruce up a bit for that business meeting or dinner right after work, Cassy and her team at By Design have you covered.

Preview: AC Hotel Little Rock Downtown

AC Hotel Preview

As members of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, we were invited to a sneak peek of the AC Hotel Little Rock. The concept for AC Hotels originated in Spain by Antonio Catalán. Director of sales, Kerry Thompson, walked us through the $25-million transformation of the Hall-Davidson buildings and explained how every AC Hotel strives to encourage all of their guests to mingle with the locals and get to know the community they are visiting. To facilitate this kind of socializing, the hotel will open its doors to both guests and locals each evening to convene in the large, open lounge area where small plates and beverages, including a variety of Spanish wines, will be served. Breakfast will be available each morning, served European-style and will include options like freshly sliced prosciutto, Manchego cheese, and made-to-order open-faced toasts. There is a sound-proof meeting space available that can accommodate 10 – 15 people, complete with smart TV for presentations or video conferencing.

AC Hotel Little Rock

$25-million renovation of Hall-Davidson buildings preserves historic details

Throughout the tour, she pointed to the historic features of the building that were meticulously preserved during the construction of the hotel. Some of these features include original marble walls, antique tiling, crown molding, the original Hall Building directory, and even a U.S. Mail chute, which is very rare to see these days. Guest rooms have been beautifully, yet minimally designed with the goal of creating a space that offers the utmost comfort, functionality, and charm, while also providing every space with the best view of the city as possible. This design of integrating the old with the new perfectly mirrors their concept of bringing locals and visitors together in a shared space, and in doing so, the AC Hotel has created something new to the city of Little Rock, but familiar to those who call it home.

Start-Up Story: Taylor & Taylor Law Firm

Tasha and Andy Taylor

This start-up story features Tasha and Andy Taylor, who’ve teamed up in life, love, and law to form one of Little Rock’s most unique and dynamic power couples.

Husband and wife attorney team Tasha and Andy Taylor met at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, where they both graduated in 2005. Five years into their careers, the couple founded Taylor & Taylor Law Firm, P.A. in 2010.  Since the beginning, the Taylors have focused on taking excellent care of their clients. Their motto, “we love helping people” is not just something they say, but it’s how the Taylors and their team approach every person they talk to at their firm.

The Taylors now manage a statewide personal injury practice and appellate practice. Their firm also handles family law matters, education law, and social security disability claims. Taylor & Taylor Law Firm is located in West Little Rock at the Centre at 10 building on Highway 10. They can be found online at www.TaylorLawFirm.com.

Rotary Club 99/Dunbar Middle School Mentoring Partnership

Hank Kelley with James Gray

The LRSD recently produced a video featuring Hank Kelley, Rotary Club of Little Rock 99 president, interacting with James Gray, an eighth-grader at Dunbar Magnet Middle School. The signature project of the Rotary Club is a partnership with Dunbar Magnet Middle School. The club currently has 20 members active in different stages of mentorship at Dunbar.

Hank mentors eighth-grader, James Gray, offering guidance, support, encouragement, and sometimes just an ear. Hank has tutored James in math, offered football tips, and donated his daughter’s drum set to the band. James is a member of the school band and football team and at a recent school assembly, he was presented with a music award and recognized for his grades — all A’s and B’s including an A in math. Both James and Hank look forward to a relationship beyond Dunbar and look forward to learning from each other.

Start-Up Story: AvaBella Day Spa

DeeDee Helbig, owner of AvaBella Day Spa

Flake & Kelley Commercial is proud to introduce a new series called, Start-Up Stories. We meet a lot of great people in our business and we want to share the entrepreneurial stories of people who love what they do. DeeDee Helbig leased space in Westchase Plaza fifteen years ago to open AvaBella Day Spa. AvaBella has grown to include a wide range of award-winning services and now employs 16 people. Thank you, DeeDee for sharing your inspiring story!

Growing up, I always dreamed of owning my own business. My dad owned a construction company and my aunt owned her own salon. So, I suppose you could say the entrepreneurial spirit is in my blood.

I received my esthetician (skincare therapist) license in 2000 and worked at a couple of day spas before I decided I was ready to open my own. I’m slightly hard-headed and like to do things my own way. So, I thought I should give it a shot, and I took the plunge in 2004. The moment I walked into the location in Westchase Plaza, I fell in love! I knew this was the right place for my day spa.

I started with just three employees, but the business took off so well that we expanded in 2010, despite the recession that was going on at the time. This was a huge honor for me because I know my business survives on customers having disposable income, which is typically scarce during economic recessions

A lot has changed over the years since I began working in this industry. When I first opened, the internet was in its infancy, iPhones and apps hadn’t launched yet, plastic credit card gift cards weren’t common, and online shopping was almost completely unheard of. Ava Bella was one of only three day spas in the central Arkansas area and now I believe there are more than 20! The industry is growing fast and getting stronger and stronger every year.

We are in our fifteenth year of business and have 16 incredible employees! I credit a lot of my success to how I treat my staff. I have always believed and tried to show by example that if my employees are happy, the clients will be happy, and when clients are happy, business is good. This simple idea has become a mantra by which I run my business and it has definitely paid off!

If I could give any advice to someone who is thinking of starting their own business I would say, first, be financially and physically prepared to work a lot of hours for very little money. I didn’t have a steady paycheck for the first two or three years! Second, never ever spend beyond your means. Most businesses go under because they can’t pay their bills. Last, and most important, treat your staff well. They are the backbone of your business. It’s kind of like a marriage, if they’re happy, you’re happy.

Cheers to 15 more years!

DeeDee Helbig, Owner

Ava Bella Day Spa

Cheers indeed, DeeDee! It’s people like you that make our state such a great place to live and do business. Flake & Kelley is honored to have played a small role in your success!