Style Q&A: Penzone at 50

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
“Truly embrace the fact that self-care isn't selfish,” advises Debbie Penzone. “I'm a firm believer in this quote [by Eleanor Brownn, a health and wellness expert]: 'Self-care is not selfish. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from 
an empty vessel.'”

Charles Penzone opened his first salon in Columbus in 1969 after taking out a bank loan for $500 and hiring two stylists. Since that time, he’s been joined by his wife, Debbie, a former hair stylist, to build a growing business focused on self-care. Now president and CEO of six salons that employ more than 500, Debbie Penzone talks about what she—and the business—have learned along the way.

When Charles opened the first Charles Penzone salon in 1969, he wanted to reshape the salon and spa industry. Looking back, what was the biggest factor in the success of your business brand?

Education has always been the backbone of our business. We provide our artists and therapists countless opportunities to learn new techniques to stay on the top of their game. This focus allows us to ensure our services are always the best for our guests. More recently, our willingness to embrace change and evolve our brand has kept us relevant—50 years later.

Penzone Salons + Spas continues to evolve, recently opening a new and expansive spa and salon in the Short North. What are you learning about today’s customers and what they want in a spa experience that’s different from the past?

Our guests want to be educated. They want to learn—helping them be the best version of themselves. They also want to find a space where self-care is a priority—and that’s the total direction of our new concept. They’re also looking for a community. Our new social rooms are the perfect place for this. They want to feel included and ultimately to live more confidently from the outside in.

I love this quote from a YouTube video that you made with Charles: “We don’t just cut hair, we empower people.” Tell us how you try to empower people, including your clients and employees.

We empower our team by providing them many educational opportunities throughout the year. More recently, we encourage them to look beyond the physical appointment to know that what they do builds confidence—that they’re truly improving lives. For our guests, we’re all about true beauty. We encourage our guests to embrace their true selves. We encourage them to celebrate the unique beauty they have—and feel confident doing so.

How have you, personally, changed in the last 25 years?

Transitioning from behind the chair to the corporate world was a big change for me. At first, I struggled to feel comfortable expressing my creativity in what I wore and how I spoke. For a while, I felt like I needed to wear a business suit to be respected. The problem was I didn’t feel like myself. With the help of Wardrobe Therapy and the team at Saks, I found my own personal style and have felt confident being myself ever since.

You’re a fan of yoga and mindfulness. How do you implement these practices into your busy lifestyle?

Even during the busy times, I make the time to be mindful. I typically start my day early to make sure I can fit it in. The first thing I do is meditate and journal. I’m often in the 5:45 a.m. class at Lit Life + Yoga and if I can’t make it at that time, I try to catch class at another time during the day. I also close out my day with the same practice. I find that I’m able to clear my mind by re-centering and focusing on what’s important.

Tell us about your philanthropic work, including the Earth Angels Foundation.

I’m so passionate about supporting our local community—especially causes that embrace health and wellness for women and children. I’ve known that the power of our hands to give back is such a gift. We encourage our team to embrace their power by volunteering to support various organizations. It’s a win-win for everyone.