May 4 2016 12:12 AM

Artisan Company Salon +Tom & Chee

Jason Franks (left) and Lance Davis, co-owners of Artisan Company Salon, a new hair styling studio and spa opening next week in REO Town.
Photo by Laura Wixson

Over the next week, a 2,800-square-foot building in REO Town will undergo some big cosmetic changes as it transforms from a vacant law office into a destination hair salon. A gray hardwood floor will be laid down over the bare cement slab on the first floor. A faux grass wall will cover the rear section of one of the first-story rooms. And Jason Franks, co-owner/operator of the forthcoming Artisan Company Salon, will oversee the placement of all the building’s furniture, including the 14 custom-built styling stations on the second floor.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me,” the 30-year-old hair stylist said. “It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s going to look amazing in here. I can envision it in my head, and I can’t wait to share that vision with everyone else.”

Franks, 30, is a graduate of the Douglas J Aveda Institute in East Lansing. He’s worked at several salons around Metro Lansing, including Fahrenheit Tanning and Salon in Eaton Rapids, where he became a standout with his hair-coloring skills.

“I’m out there,” Franks said. “I was doing crazy hair colors years before purple ombré was popular. I’m a freak, and this is hair for freaks.”

A daring claim for an aspiring entrepreneur, but Franks’ work speaks for itself. His partner, Lance Davis, is general manager at Gilbert & Blake’s in Okemos. He referred some of the servers there to Franks, who started doing their hair. His work caught the eye of an investor, who sought Franks out.

“He saw my work and told me this was a fantastic business opportunity,” Franks said. “The pieces started to come together soon after that.”

That was last fall. Franks, Davis and the man who became Artisan’s silent partner found the building in December.

“REO Town has been very welcoming to us and extremely helpful getting us settled in,” Franks said. “I come from a small town. Even though Lansing isn’t small, REO Town still has that small town feeling I love so much.”

Franks grew up in Oscoda. He started doing hair at 7, creating styles for his sisters and his mother. Word got around, and he soon found himself doing the hair of family friends, and then friends of those friends. Interestingly, however, he never saw hairstyling as a career.

“I wanted to be an actor,” Franks said. “But after devoting years to community theater and performing in cabarets, I decided I needed to do something else. Being a stylist seemed to make sense. I’d always had a knack for hair, but it wasn’t until I was at Douglas J that my love of hair really blossomed. I learned about the infinite possibilities of what you can do.”

Franks’ clientele drives from as far away as Detroit and Chicago to see him, and he credits the rise of social media for spreading the word about his work. His flair for bright color made for particularly eye-catching photos. He’s hoping to extend that visionary style to both the interior and exterior Artisan Company Salon.

“I wanted this place to be real,” Franks said. “I want it to be gnarly. (Lansing muralist) Steve Allen is doing this huge mural on one of the inside walls and creating something on the outside to make it visible from (Washington Avenue). I’m calling the look ‘industrial Bohemian.’”

When he opens next week, Franks will have seven employees. He hopes to build that up to 14 full-time stylists. He also plans to have two massage therapists and a mani/pedi station coming later. He is seeking out stylists with a broad range of specialties.

“I’ve built a name on doing color,” Franks said, “but I want to offer a full spectrum.”

Franks will carry products that are all-natural and feature furniture made from reclaimed barn wood, steel and concrete. Franks has a grand opening scheduled for June 11, featuring a jazz band and fire-eaters. He hopes to feature food by neighborhood eateries Saddleback BBQ and Good Truckin’ Diner. He’s hoping to draw a lot of people to REO Town who may not have ventured there before and has set up the event to serve as a sampler of the community. He said he thinks Artisan will complement REO Town well because of a shared “grittiness.” While the nature of hair styling concentrates on exterior appearance, Franks’ philosophy falls more toward the interior.

“When I went to hair school, I was afraid (being a stylist) was going to be focused on the superficial,” he said. “But I’ve actually found that it’s the opposite. Now I understand true beauty, and it has nothing to do with hair. If you make someone feel pretty with a new hair style or some color, you can bring that inner beauty out. That’s all I’m doing.”

No Tom, no Chee

Downtown Lansing’s 2-year-old Tom+Chee location, 123 S. Washington Square, appears to be permanently closed. A sign on the door asserts that it’s only closed for renovations, but the store’s phone has been disconnected, its Facebook page has been deleted and the location is no longer listed on the national franchise’s website.

A phone call to one of the owners was not returned. Tom+Chee started as a soup-and-sandwich shop in Cincinnati, and grew into a national chain following a successful appearance on the reality TV show “Shark Tank.”

Artisan Company Salon
117 W. South St., Lansing
(walk-in hours) 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
(517) 220-4142,