IN A time of lockdowns and closures, strict social distancing measures, financial concerns and reopening uncertainty, the management of a business has not been easy over the last 12 months.

From retail to hospitality, from hair and beauty to tourism, we wanted to remind independent businesses across the city that their customers are ready and waiting to return, by giving them the opportunity to vote for their favourites.

Since launching the nomination form the Journal has received more than 150 entries from you - our readers - detailing your treasured places, why these outlets should be recognised and celebrated, your special memories and why you can’t wait to visit in a post-Covid world.

This week we have shone a spotlight on just some of the city’s beauty salons and boutiques, to highlight how their services and staff are so sorely missed by our readers.

From assisting with medical and health conditions, to just wanting the ultimate pampering experience, voters have made it clear that hair and beauty salons and retail units are an integral part of the city that have faced serious hardship throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Here are this week's top five:

1) OSO Boutique - 'Treated like old friends'

FAMILY business OSO Boutique has been recognised for its range of “wonderful, quirky but classic” products, with something for everyone.

Mother and daughter duo Jan and Nat Ashton have been bringing unique jewellery, accessories and clothing to women in the heart of Salisbury since the business opened in 2013.

“Nothing is too much trouble” for these two according to one nominator, with another adding they remain “positive, optimistic and a breath of fresh air” throughout all obstacles, including the Novichok poisonings and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nat said: “It feels incredibly humbling to be nominated and if there’s one thing that’s become very apparent throughout the hardships of this coronavirus pandemic then it’s that we are really blessed with truly wonderful customers.

“Salisbury really does have some incredibly loyal shoppers and when people around this town find somewhere they like, they really do support it in the right ways.”

Customers have enjoyed visiting OSO Boutique for a tailored and special experience, but have also appreciated the independent’s move to the web.

Last year, what was once two OSO outlets boasting products in the city were transformed to fit under one High Street roof.

Nat added: “I think what makes our business special is that so many of our customers are like friends and even if we don’t know our customers names or they’re new to our shop they are always treated like an old friend.

“With the trials of lockdown we think people yearn more and more for that personal touch and that’s something we’ve always championed at OSO.”

Salisbury Journal: Nat Ashton of OSO BoutiqueNat Ashton of OSO Boutique

2) The Sharp Practice - Personal and professional

BESPOKE tattoo and piercing studio The Sharp Practice has been highlighted by our readers for giving both a professional and personal experience.

For some Salisbury residents getting a first tattoo or piercing is no easy feat, but the friendliness and professionalism of the The Sharp Practice family has helped customers relax and enjoy the experience, enabling them to come back time and time again.

The family-run business on Catherine Street has been described by nominators as the best tattoo parlour in Wiltshire, with some travelling from further afield just to get their body art complete, including from Swindon, Andover and Warminster.

One customer said: “The staff always talk to you and ask questions, whereas I know some other places just take you in and get it over and done with, they always try their hardest to make you feel welcome.”

Another said: “I can remember how welcoming and kind the staff were, especially since I was so nervous, not to mention how clean and safe everything was.”

The team takes pride in conversing with customers to both make them feel at home and help them in bringing their artistic ideas to life.

A spokesperson for the business said they are “over the moon” that The Sharp Practice was nominated, adding: “It’s lovely to think the customers are still thinking about The Sharp Practice in this strange time. We all love working and being here.”

With tattooists and piercing staff with years of experience, they added: “I think The Sharp Practice is a friendly family shop which helps people feel at ease.

"We all like to help people with their ideas to get what they want and get the best tattooist for them as they all have a speciality - Darren is traditional, Matt does portraits and Jake loves Polynesian and tribal.”

Salisbury Journal: The Sharp PracticeThe Sharp Practice

3) Studio 15 - 'One stop beauty shop'

A HAIR and beauty salon that opened during the Covid-19 pandemic has been successful in building a loyal clientele, with customers praising the business for “bringing everything to under one roof”.

Described by one nominator as the “ultimate pampering experience”, Studio 15 opened around the first Covid-19 lockdown, offering a range of services, treatments and products to the Salisbury community - some of which were not yet offered anywhere else in the city.

Visitors have celebrated the business for its resilience and the way it has coped with opening and closing throughout 2020, with several expressing that they cannot wait to get booked in after the current lockdown.

One customer said: “Studio 15 is friendly, welcoming, accommodating, relaxing and a beautiful salon with everything going for it. The staff have been incredible to me and my family since recently opening. I don’t go anywhere else now and recommend to others all the time.

"My teenage daughter suffers from juvenile arthritis and was offered to use their collagen bed which improved her condition and mood drastically.”

Another commended the business for “lovely staff, fantastic products and affordable prices”.

Studio 15’s Sophie Cormack, who opened the business at only 24-years-old, said it was “lovely to be recognised” and described the business as a “one stop beauty shop”.

With services including sun beds, collagen beds, hairdressing, and beauty treatments, Sophie added that it is “the only beauty shop in Salisbury to have everything”, and there is a loyalty scheme on offer for repeat customers.

An overriding response from nominators was that they left Studio 15 feeling “special, comfortable and pampered”.

Salisbury Journal: Sophie Cormack of Studio 15Sophie Cormack of Studio 15

4) The Hair Extension Cave - 'Inspirational' owner

THE owner of The Hair Extension Cave has been recognised for her “unbelievable” wealth of knowledge, as well as “changing peoples’ lives” with her “outstanding” hair care service.

Since opening the hair extension supplier and salon on Fisherton Street, Molly Cook has been labelled as “an inspiration” by her customers, for supporting their hair journeys through wigs, styles, advice and more.

One nominator said Molly “goes above and beyond” for anyone who walks through her doors, with another adding you leave the site as a friend.

"It’s not just a job to Molly, it’s a big part of Molly’s life. That’s what makes her and The Hair Cave so special,” another said.

Responding to the feedback, Molly said: “I am honoured, and in such a horrible and unsure time for businesses it really lifts my spirit and motivation, that unfortunately has been sat under a grey cloud in this pandemic.

“Hair loss is something that can affect your whole life and you are constantly reminded of it, I am here to not only give support but also the solution.

"I have a lot of customers who suffer from alopecia and are undergoing chemotherapy and are already going through so much in their lives, that I do whatever I can to make them relaxed, happy and feel like themselves again.”

Salisbury Journal: The Hair Extension CaveThe Hair Extension Cave

5) Head to Toe - Salon's 'special touches'

A “SALON with soul” and “a secret escape” is how a beauty business has been described by its customers, as they look forward to the return of appointments to catch up with staff and walk away feeling pampered.

Head to Toe on Winchester Street has been recognised by locals for its “special touches”, making every experience tailored and personal to the customer.

From “artistic nails” to “amazing coffee”, residents have noted the little things offered by the business that makes it such a celebrated independent in Salisbury, including a welcoming atmosphere, loyalty cards, seasonal treats and smiling staff.

A customer who travels from Fordingbridge to Salisbury especially for the Head to Toe experience described the salon as: “The best I have ever been to”, adding: “The staff are extremely friendly and their services aren’t ridiculously expensive either.

“I feel amazing when I walk out of there. They are the only reason why I travel into Salisbury.”

Salon owner Magdalena Miller said: “I feel so grateful to everyone who nominated Head to Toe. We are so lucky to have such amazing customers who picked us. Thank you for all the support in the difficult time.”

Concerned about the Covid-19 impact, another customer said: “The friendship and trust I have built with Magdalena and her team is irreplaceable and I would hate to see the business suffer as it is currently.

“Magdalena has worked incredibly hard to build a reputation and form relationships with clients so without them, I can understand why a self-employed business like this one could suffer huge financial losses.”

More positive feedback about the team included “always smiling, welcoming, clean, hygienic, the service is beyond fabulous and so are your treatments.”

When asked what makes the business special, Magdalena said: “The attention to detail. Fair prices. Friendly environment for customers to enjoy chatting and high standards of hygiene.”

Salisbury Journal: Head to ToeHead to Toe

In future features we will be focussing on other special industries, so whether it’s the customer service, atmosphere, location or products on offer, we want you to tell us about your favourite traders and businesses in the area, and what makes them so great.

For more information and to nominate a business click here.