Leslie Slavens never imagined she would become a manicurist. She dreamt of going to cosmetology school, one day being able to work alongside her sister who is an aesthetician. But getting her certification would have taken more time and money than she had, so she tried her hand in becoming a nail technician to learn a new skill. Slavens was good at it, really good at it. More than just painting the nails of clients that quite literally put their trusting hands in hers, she found a deeper human connection with those she developed meaningful relationships with, a surprise when she first started in the industry. Now the owner of Sag Mane Salon, formerly Fine Fingers Haircutting in Sag Harbor, Slavens shares how her journey shifted and evolved to bring her that much closer to her dream.
Browsing through a local newspaper, Slavens had come across a real estate listing for a salon for sale. Though not in a position to buy, she called anyway out of curiosity and met with stylists Judy Preiato and Jim Intermaggio, owners of Fine Fingers Haircutting for more than three decades. The pair had been encouraging and supportive and two years later after Slavens had finally enrolled in cosmetology school and was about to finish, she had a client willing to invest and help her buy the business. She officially took over on July 1.
“Jim and Judy agreed to stay on through the summer, perhaps even longer,” Slavens shares of her mentors. “They’re helping transition clientele over to me, helping me learn cuts and formulas. I’m a nail technician but also kind of a student.”
In addition to the nail station added a year ago, Slavens has begun to make some cosmetic upgrades, adding a fresh coat of paint, sewing new cushions and pillows for window seats, adding shelves and displays and other touches to freshen up the space. These types of improvements come naturally to her.
Slavens moved to the East End from San Francisco, taking a position at Naturopathica in East Hampton before realizing her dream of moving to Manhattan. There she helped open Truman’s Gentlemen’s Groomers flagship store and their nail department. With a degree in design and a mutual love for all things decorative, Slavens also worked with interior designers as well as became a licensed general contractor, doing her own remodeling jobs.
“Even though people think carpentry is very different, it is the transformation that is the most attractive to me,” she shares. “Whether it is hair or remodeling or nails. It’s kind of an obsession I have with taking something, fixing it or turning it around into something beautiful again.”
A significant change to a staple Sag Harbor salon is the switch to eco-friendly product lines. A natural and slow farmed line from Italy called Davines is great on hair and cruelty free, with sprays, texturizers and a full line of colors and glazes. Coat from Beverly Hills is a very eco-conscious nail polish while Unite from San Diego is a cruelty free line that devotes a solid percentage of profits to dog rescue organizations. Sag Mane Salon is also joining Green Circle Salons, an organization that offers sustainable salon solutions by recovering and repurposing beauty waste, ensuring things like leftover hair dyes and bleach stay out of waters and landfills.
“I’ve always been an environmentalist and animal rights activist,” Slavens explains. “The beauty industry is pretty toxic. I like the idea of trying to be responsible and Sag Harbor is really moving in that direction. With Onda and Aveda in town also, there’s a conscious effort to care more about the planet, animals, health and wellness.”
Though traditional salons are open Tuesday through Saturday, in an effort to embed herself in the local community Slavens will be in the salon on Sundays and Mondays as well. In the evenings this summer from 6 to 10 p.m., clients can sip Wölffer rosé while enjoying a reduced-price blowout, nail polish change and chair massage. Twice per month a guest barber will offer full services. Veterans receive a 10% discount.
“Everyone in this town is supportive of one another, which is pretty special,” Slavens says. “I want summer people that have a tendency of preferring a little bit higher level of attention to come in as well as the locals. I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome, too.”
Next year, services are planned to expand to include microblading, facials, waxing and other treatments. Slavens also hopes that one day her sister can join her from California to fulfill the dream of working together, side by side.
Sag Mane Salon is located at 78 Main Street in Sag Harbor.