By Dale McGarrigle
Special to The Weekly
OLD TOWN – Hair always has been the creative medium for Toni Sockabasin.
That goes as far back as her days as a student at Lee Academy, when the Eastport native served as the de facto hair stylist for students and teachers alike.
Sockabasin attended the University of Maine, majoring in social work, until her senior year, when she switched to Pierre’s School of Cosmetology in Bangor to follow her passion.
“I love what I do,” she said.
So it’s no surprise that, after working as a stylist for 14 years in Omaha, Neb., Sockabasin started her own salon, Aqua Hair and Tanning Studio, located at 240 Main St., Unit 1, on May 15.
Sockabasin returned to the area one year ago. She is enjoying Old Town: “I love the small-town atmosphere. People have been really supportive. I love getting to know people and that they get to know you.”
The commercial unit in Old Town was empty, and she and family members built the nine-room salon themselves over a six-week period.
She named the shop Aqua in honor of her father, Anthony LaCoute, an Aquarius.
Sockabasin and Alaina Violette are the two stylists at Aqua, while Sockabasin’s sister, Paula LaCoute, serves as receptionist and office manager. She’s currently looking to add another stylist and a nail technician. She hadn’t planned on having a nail tech, but she’s had a lot of calls from the community for such services.
Following a trend in the Midwest, Sockabasin has installed individual suites for each stylist or technician.
“It gives the clients some privacy, and each girl can decorate their area however they want,” she said. “It helps create an environment where the stylists are happy. If they’re not happy, they aren’t going to do good work. If they can express themselves creatively, they’re going to do fantastic work.”
Services that Aqua offers include cuts, highlights, coloring, perms, waxes and up-dos for special occasions such as weddings and proms. With the streaks of color in her and LaCoute’s hair, Sockabasin notes that they are trying to introduce fashion colors to their clients.
Aqua also has three tanning beds, two horizontal and one upright, with monthly packages or individual sessions available.
It’s been so far, so good for Sockabasin and Aqua.
“We’re getting phone calls and new customers daily,” she said. “People are coming in out of curiosity and staying. I wanted to offer something modern but affordable.”
Hours for Aqua Hair and Tanning Studio are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday for hair, and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday for tanning. For information, call 827-7000.