The Living Room celebrates one year with new owner

Throughout the fall and winter months, we’ll be featuring local businesses who were selected as winners in The Electric’s annual Great Falls Greats contest, which is held in June.

This week, Michelle Bebbington celebrated the one year anniversary of ownership at The Living Room.

The salon is two-time winner of The Electric’s Great Falls Greats contest.

She closed on the purchase of the salon on Oct. 22, 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic after working at the salon for nearly 14 years.

In that time, Bebbington has lightened up the space, added local artwork and added some treatment rooms.

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She partnered with local artist Sheree Nelson to add a mural in the salon that combines artwork from the Davines hair product line carried at the salon and Great Falls elements, including a lampost.

“She took my vision and made it beautiful,” Bebbington said.

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The mural was hand painted and took six days to complete. It was also the start of art galleries at The Living Room as Bebbington has offered gallery space to local artists in the back hallway.

Early this year, she closed the salon for a week to paint and remodel a bit, changing the blue wall paint to white the copper paneled ceiling and adding new custom wood shelving, countertops and more made by her fiance Eric Houghton.

“If it wasn’t for him, this space would have never transformed into what it is now,” Bebbington said. “We’re partners in this. It’s just as much him as me.”

The salon had three treatment rooms, but one wasn’t being used much since it was small, so they added more space to it to make it more viable and Bebbington said she’s looking for someone to use it eventually for things like Botox, fillers and would like to expand the opportunities for medical esthetician, and also looking for a second esthetician.

Bebbington said a new staffer started last week in addition to the five people working there. She’s looking to add more people to the team but “it’s a process to find the right people.”

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She said the salon is a hybrid of commissione and booth rental and “it’s a really cool environment to learn and grow. There’s a reason why people love us. People like the feeling, they feel comfortable here.”

That was Jolie Kiser’s motto when she opened the salon in 2006, Bebbington said.

She chose the name as The Living Room because she wanted it to feel cozy and Bebbington said she opted not to change the name, in part because she still wanted it to feel that way.

Bebbington and Kiser have been friends since they met at beauty school in 1999, hair for Bebbington and nails for Kiser.

“We had an instant friendship,” Bebbington said and they worked together at Studio Montage for four years. Bebbington went to Europe for a few years and returned to Great Falls in 2008 to join Kiser at The Living Room.

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“Jolie created The Living Room as a booth rental salon to offer an elevated salon experience where people could come and get cozy and enjoy time away focusing on self-care. It was also a place where independent business owners could grow in their craft and also be a part of a creative team of people who work together to provide a cohesive environment. When the time came for Jolie to pursue other life passions, the option to pass on The Living Room to me and keep the dream alive was perfect timing for me. It was a little crazy buying a business in the middle of a pandemic but it felt right. When we celebrated The Living Room 15th anniversary in May we also celebrated Jolie and her role in giving so many women the opportunity to work independently and be a part of something really special at The Living Room,” Bebbington said.

She said she’s looking forward to the future with more collaborations with other downtown businesses and more giving back to the community, as well as adding to the salon such as transforming a spot into a speakeasy like, old timey barbershop for men with the same feel and values.

One of those collaborations is with her fiance’s woodworking company, Freedoms Edge Woodworking, for boards made by Houghton of black walnut, cherry or ash, delivered as filled by All The Things Charcuterie plus a bottle of wine.

It’s been a year and “lots of work,” Houghton said, but it’s also a family affair since between the two of them, they have five kids, who all love to help, the couple said.

“We’re just kind of getting the hang of this,” Bebbington said. She’s worked there for more than a decade, but it’s a change as the owner. “It feels like we were really fortunate to grow through COVID and still get to have clients in the salon.”