HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — The owners of a family-owned small business in Highland Heights showed us with a simple gesture of how we can stay together and help each other while being apart during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marianne and Darren Nicolli have owned the Michael Christopher Salon on Wilson Mills Road for 25 years. Their salon has 55 employees, many of who have worked at the salon for years and have become like family.
Since they were forced to shut down on March 18 under Governor Mike DeWine’s order to close hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors and barbershops, the employees of Michael Christopher Salon haven’t been able to see the people they’ve grown so close to over the years.
That’s when Marianne and Darren Nicolli decided to bring a bit of normalcy to a trying time.
The couple buys pizza and salad for the staff often under normal circumstances, so on Friday, the Nicollis surprised all 55 employees with a pizza dinner delivered to their individual homes, ordered from local pizza shops in each employee’s neighborhood. The owners sent out a group text to the employees letting them know dinner was on them that night.
Marianne and Darren worked out all of the details, down to tipping the delivery drivers beforehand.
Liz Teringo, an employee of Michael Christopher Salon for the past 10 years, said she was moved by her employer's gesture.
“I had to read it a couple of times because I wasn’t sure I was seeing it correctly since there are so many of us,” Teringo said. “This is just one of many things that they’ve done, I can’t even explain how lucky the whole MCS team is to have such good owners.”
Teringo and her coworker Beth Johnson, who has worked at the salon for 20 years, said the Nicollis have been exceptionally supportive—financially and emotionally—over the past few weeks, helping each employee get through the unemployment benefits process and regularly checking in to make sure they are doing well.
“I had tears in my eyes because they have a business shut down and they’re thinking of us. It was a beautiful gesture,” Johnson said. “Darren and Marianne are amazing bosses and good friends. They definitely care about all of us.”
Marianne and Darren Nicolli are no strangers to generosity. The couple donated all of the extra gloves they had in stock at their salon to local hospitals that are currently dealing with a shortage of personal protective equipment. Marianne said it was just the right thing to do, like sending her employees dinner.
“We’ve never been through anything like this before so we’re all just trying to navigate it, take care of each other, make sure everyone is doing okay and checking in with each other,” Marianne said.
Marianne and Darren have applied for the emergency small business loans made available by the state as they wait for their salon to be able to reopen.
“It’s been very stressful. We’ve been worried about our staff and getting our business up and running and taking care of our guests and getting back to normal as soon as we can, Marianne said. “We’re just trying to stay afloat, keep things ready and be here and ready to go for a great comeback when we can.”
In the meantime, the employees and owners of Michael Christopher Salon can breathe a little easier knowing they have the support of each other through this unprecedented era.