FOR TWO DECADES, THIS STATEN ISLAND SALON AND WELLNESS SPA HAS USED THE HEALING POWER OF SPIRITUALISM IN SERVICE TO ITS COMMUNITY
BY JENNIFER VIKSE • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
A lot has changed in 20 years.
Frank and Anne Bennett have, over that time, not only grown a successful business and given back to their community, but also offered career opportunities via their collaboration with the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School. Most important, they’ve also become a family, in more ways than one.
The couple, who opened the A.F. Bennett Salon and Wellness Spa on New Dorp Lane in 1998, had a son, and he’s now working alongside them at the salon and spa. And the family extends beyond these three; it includes their staff, some of whom have been with the business since the beginning.
“We’re a family operation I can say it from a genetic standpoint or a spiritual standpoint,” said Frank Bennett, who runs the company with Anne. “Some people are linked by blood, some are linked by A.F. Bennett. There’s something intangible here. I don’t know it’s the secret sauce,” he said with a laugh, searching for the right words. “It’s unlike other places. People ask, ‘Why don’t you open up all over?’ Honestly, I don’t know if I can replicate this, it’s something so special.”
It must be, as it’s lasted 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s growing. While he’s coy about the details, Bennett said that the business is expanding and will dedicate some newly acquired square footage to Sanctuary, a concept projected to launch next summer. “We blew people away in 1998. People are going to get blown away for a second time,” he teased.
But for now, reflecting on 20 years in the beauty and wellness field on Staten Island is sweet. “We went from being a married couple to a family. My son, Frankie, now works with us, shampooing and hosting. It feels like [the years] went very fast,” added the Todt Hill resident. “We’ve become such a staple in the community. I feel like we have become an integral part of Staten Island. It feels like it was fast, but also like we have been here forever.”
And forever is the plan. When the Bennetts opened the salon and spa, they were thinking in terms of legacy. “Everything we do is with the mindset of a future generation taking over,” he said.
So what’s the secret to being in operation for that length of time? Bennett explained that the key has been constantly innovating and presenting new treatments.
“Two times a year, we look to bring new services into the salon and spa. Every three to four years, we look to bring on one or two services that are revolutionary—that haven’t been seen on Staten Island before,” he said, detailing that they were the first to do hair extensions and eyelash extensions and, more recently, were the first to do micro blading.
“I go back in time and think of when we were first in hot stone massage, too. Now we do skin analysis with a computer and imaging equipment. We are always looking to break new ground.”
In terms of the neighbor – hood, Bennett said he has seen a shift on New Dorp Lane, from mostly retail in the 1990s to a variety of businesses today, like restaurants, beauty, and wellness. “We’ve seen a lot of people come and go on New Dorp Lane. It has become more of a service-based hub rather than a retail hub.”
The Bennetts also operate the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School a few doors up the street, and recently celebrated 10 years there.
One of the things that keeps the salon and spa ahead of the pack is that it’s truly both, Bennett noted. “It’s a very unique situation…a place that has an equally busy salon and spa. When we say wellness spa, we’re speaking very deliberately; we make certain that what we do is well balanced. That balance may include bringing forth the newest hair color technique. Then we’re thinking, ‘What’s the newest in facials?’ If we do yin, we must do yang. That’s how we operate.”
“We do whatever we can to make sure people get great services,” Bennett said, “but more importantly, that we provide an experience. That’s why we’re here 20 years later,” adding that he also believes in investing in the community that has supported this vision. “Philanthropic efforts have always been at the forefront of our heart. We invest in the community and the community invests in us. When people are raising money for things that make Staten Island better, they know we’re enthusiastic about that.”
There’s no question that, at the two decade mark, Bennett has a grateful heart.
“All of this is by God’s grace,” he said. “We have so much evidence of God’s hand on our business.”
While the Bennetts’ dedication to their clientele, a commitment to excellence, and a thirst for innovation have propelled the business forward and contributed to their success, Bennett is clear about the roots of that success. “All of these things,” he said, “would not be possible without God’s grace.”
350 New Dorp Lane / 718.979.9000