In the heart of The Exchange District, a building that once sat vacant for 25 years has become a stepping stone for business owners to launch their career in the beauty industry.

“I never pictured myself in something like this, but I enjoy this space and I enjoy the people, there’s always something new happening,” said Jonah Vialoux, owner of Blur Barbershop.

Located on 55 Arthur Street, The Village Salon Studios is a shared workspace of 26 different businesses that serve a variety of self-care needs including barbers, tattoo artists and permanent makeup stylists.

Business owners can sign a one-year lease, giving them their own salon workspace with the option to extend that lease should they feel inclined.

Vialoux who joined The Village Salon Studios when the opened in May 2023, found a passion for hairstyling after recovering from addiction. It’s a pursuit that pushed him to find his own space and network with young entrepreneurs.

“When you’re around and surrounded by people that have the same idea as you, you can meet and integrate with other people’s businesses and explore other people and find more clients because I'm right here,” Vialoux said.

“I really enjoy just having that constant flow of people through here, it keeps you open-minded.”

Since opening, co-owner Fadi Moukhaiber said there was a great opportunity to launch this style of workspace in the city that had not been seen before following success he had opening similar workplaces in Edmonton. His original tenancy projection was to be 50 per cent occupied within a year.

“We’re actually at 60 per cent which is phenomenal, the demand has been there definitely, people have been waiting for something like this for a long time and we’re hoping that by the end of April we should be at 80 per cent,” Moukhaiber said.

“It gives me great pleasure to see young entrepreneurs, people that after COVID-19 having financial struggles can get their own business started with basically almost nothing compared to renting your own, or committing to a five-year lease or renting a big space.”

Moukhaiber said ownership was attracted to the Exchange District in Winnipeg based on the history in the neighbourhood.

“When we were touring the country and trying to figure out what’s the best location and the best space for it we fell in love with the heritage buildings and the heritage reservations that you guys have in the city and this building called it,” Moukhaiber said.

“The concept of a shared workspace for the beauty industry has been booming in North America for the last 20 years.”

In recent months, The Village Salon Studios have been able to welcome a number of Ukrainian newcomers to start their own business and make connections in the city.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yelyzaveta Pozhdydaieva moved to Winnipeg in September 2022.

She brought her skills in permanent makeup, eyebrow styling and laser tattoo removal to the workspace last October when she opened her salon You By Liza Po, and has been busy ever since.

"I love this place because it's a great opportunity to develop your business,” Pozhdydaieva said.

“When you are working in the beauty sphere, you're communicating with different beauty artists and you can join your clients, build clientele so quickly and it's a great opportunity to work in such creative space with lots of people who are doing the same purpose.”

Pozhdydaieva said the reception amongst clientele for newcomers has been very encouraging.

“All clients are saying it’s that European-style space and they are really enjoying it, it’s very brand new and everything is fresh and very stylish,” Pozhdydaieva said.

Ownership said despite language barrier challenges for some, it has been inspiring to see a community of stylists grow in a short period of time.

“They are all very hard-working, they really want to make a future for themselves, they want to make this their home and this gives them the accessibility to make that dream come true,” Moukhaiber said.