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Lorna Potter’s legacy continues

New owner Jane Smith is adamant that Lorna Potter Beauty Therapy is more than the place you get your hair done – it’s also a place of comfort and rest for its regular patrons, she says.

The salon sits on the corner of Perry St and state highway two in Masterton’s old Trust House.

It’s a building Smith had always loved, so when her friend and business founder Lorna Potter was looking to let the business go, she felt compelled to take it over and continue its legacy.

“I just thought it would be such a shame to let the brand of Lorna go,” Smith said.

“This place has always had a stable feeling – if you felt out of sorts or lonely you could come here and you’d get a lovely welcome.”

Although she’s now the owner of a salon, Smith doesn’t describe herself as a beauty therapist.

“I’m here to help the therapists have the space and resources they need to do their jobs,” she said.

Smith hasn’t had a linear career, with her varied work history including government, recruitment, and education – and even a decade spent living in Dubai after her partner was transferred there for work.

“I learnt a very valuable lesson in Dubai. If you’re ever asked to do anything, never say no.”

This ethos saw Smith start working at an interior design company when a friend asked if she would be able to do some casual data entry.

Within a year, she was “basically running the company for the owner”.

“I had never done interior design before. But you just apply common sense and learn by doing,” Smith recalled.

Eventually, it was time to come home and Smith and her partner flew back to land in Wellington.

But 10 years abroad saw Smith missing the high skies, sunshine and long flat land she had adjusted to – the hills and clouds in Wellington just weren’t doing it for her anymore.

“We visited friends in Wairarapa and I fell in love,” she said.

“Masterton isn’t the place it was in the ’80s. If you asked me to live anywhere else I would say no. The people have been incredible and I’ve loved every second of it.”

Although much about Masterton has changed in the past 50 years, Smith said there was something truly special about working in the 100-year-old Public Trust building.

The building has high ceilings, chandeliers hanging down over clients having their hair done, and the two solid steel vaults on their floor are used as a massage and storage room.

Smith said these particular historical aspects of the building provided huge value to the salon space.

“Having lived in the Middle East, I know luxury. I’ve seen it, lived it, met the people, and bought the T-shirt,” she said.

“I think the space helps people walk in here and feel relaxed. The building brings a peaceful quality – Lorna couldn’t have chosen a better spot.”

Smith is working on small changes in the business, including a switch in hair dye products to a more sustainable brand, and a new booking system that will allow for more growth in the future.

But ultimately, the intrinsic spirit of Lorna Potter will remain the same, courtesy of Smith and her staff of beauty therapists.

Claire Linkhorn has been with Lorna Potter for about six years and describes herself as “part of the furniture”.

Reflecting on her time at the salon, Linkhorn said it was a mix of the building and the people that results in the business receiving glowing reviews.

“The values are very community-based and our clients are like family. The openness of the salon means people are comfortable.

“Lots of people describe it to us as a ‘safe space’.

People come in even when they don’t have appointments, for advice, comfort or just to talk.”

1 COMMENT

  1. What is odd about this story to me is that two or so years ago i purchased vouchers for Lorna Potter as gifts, and some months later was told these weren’t valid now because it had changed ownership…. and that was also relayed on their facebook page and it changed name… then six months later it changed name back again, and i’m quite sure the lady in the photo is the one who originally sold me these vouchers in person. And no amount of argument with the staff seemed to elicit anything favourable, and so I was 180 bucks out of pocket for a business that according to your story has been owned/run/staffed by the same people all along. Sadly I threw those vouchers out, but when LP reappeared last year I asked on facebook and was told they would honour them if i still had them as they kept no records themselves of what vouchers had been sold….. So they may be wanting people to believe they are all about feel good but my experience is its a poorly run business with an even more poorly run accounting and customer service ethic. They also complained to google and somehow had my factual review removed but I still have the bank statements to prove what I paid them.

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Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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