The midday catering from Qdoba was the first sign that the day would be a good one.
“Some of us have just gotten off our shifts, some of us are about to start,” said Lydia Shafer, a stylist who had been with the salon since it opened a decade ago. “We thought it was just our normal meeting until the Qdoba guy came in with food, which obviously gets us excited.”
The excitement was just beginning. In stepped Chrissy Monaco and Roz Rossman, Shafer’s bosses and the co-founders of Viva Bella Salon in State College.
Qdoba was just the entrée. This wasn’t a last meal, but it was a going-away gift of sorts.
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“I remember Chrissy telling me, ‘Someday I want to take the salon on like a cruise or big vacation like Oprah does,’ ” Shafer said. “I remember her saying that to me 10 years ago so I knew she always would pull through. But I was just kind of shocked that it was like today is the day.”
Monaco and Rossman went full-Oprah: “We’re taking you to the Dominican Republic,” they told their employees. The 22 employees also had the chance to bring a plus-one — Monaco and Rossman will be bringing 28 people on the trip.
“At first, we were mostly shocked, and then we started to tear up, and then we were excited,” Shafer said, laughing.
In celebration of Viva Bella’s 10th anniversary, Monaco and Rossman are taking their employees to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for five days at an all-inclusive resort.
They leave Sunday.
Before they took off, Rossman shared how the trip came together and how she and Monaco made good on a 10-year promise.
Q: How did you go from first-time business owners to your employees calling you Oprah?
A: The idea actually originated when we opened Viva Bella in 2007. Chrissy is the dreamer of the two of us and I’m the more realistic of the two of us and I don’t think I even tell this story a lot since we opened. I don’t think we even paid our first month’s rent yet and Chrissy was like, “Wouldn’t it be great if for our 10-year anniversary we took everyone on a trip?” I’m like, “Yeah, let’s pay rent and see how that goes.”
So together we just kind of made that our goal and last year we put everything in motion to make that happen. Without our staff we wouldn’t be where we are.
Q: Did you get the reaction you were hoping for?
A: I think so. We wanted to tell them early because we knew more than half of our staff didn’t have passports, so our biggest concern was that they would have time to get a passport. We wanted to get them excited about the upcoming year, and we were thrilled with how they reacted and that everybody would get to go. I was worried that as time went on people would back out, but everybody is going.
Q: What do your employees mean to you?
A: They’re like our family. I think of us as a big family and I feel like I know the girls like I know most of my real family, so I think we try, even as we add on to our staff, to include everybody in feeling that way.
I think what’s really big for me is I’ve worked for people in the past who have made you feel replaceable, that this is just your job and if you go, we’ll find someone as good or better than you and they’re also replaceable. I really hated that feeling, and I don’t want my team or my family to feel that way.
Q: How long will the salon be closed?
A: We’ll actually be closed through Friday. We’re going to give them an extra day off to recuperate because I feel like it’s going to be a really fun vacation and they’re going to need a day to let their livers heal.
Q: I have no experience whatsoever in styling hair. Can I come work for you?
A: (laughs) Absolutely. It’s all trainable, I promise.