Pair Of Aces: Maria Lekkakos and Marc Harris




Harris and Lekkakos

Individually, Maria Lekkakos and Marc Harris own successful salons on the North Shore and in Boston, respectively. Together, the newlywed couple is a force to be reckoned with, pouring their passion into industry projects—and a new life together at home. By Karyn Polewczyk

A Chance Encounter

Perhaps it was destiny that brought together Maria Lekkakos, the former Miss Massachusetts-turned-proprietor of the eponymous Wenham salon and spa, M. Lekkakos, and Marc Harris, a South Boston native with a West Coast rockstar vibe. Both were drawn to the salon industry at a young age—she became an esthetician at 19; as a teenager, he felt inspired by his first Newbury Street haircut—and both went on to carve out paths that would lead to their subsequent rises to the top. Despite these similarities, and despite traveling in the same social circles for years, it wasn’t until a mutual friend introduced them at a party that the spark ignited. Maria’s smile—"that big, warm, vivacious smile"—plus a firm handshake ("very important," he adds) left Marc intrigued—and inspired— by the woman who would eventually become his wife.

Lekkakos, who maintains the poise and polish of her days as a beauty queen, says it was Harris’s firsthand understanding of the salon and spa industry that stood out and helped forge their connection. "I’d had relationships where my boyfriends didn’t want me to succeed," she says. "Marc gets it. He’s strong, he’s independent, he’s driven, and I love that about him."

Five years of dating, four salons, two cities, and one joint venture later, the couple was engaged—and then came that big fancy (Greek) wedding.

"M&M"

Of planning the couple’s wedding, Lekkakos says, "I kept saying I wanted things to look dramatic, and Marc would say he saw dollar signs." It was rumored that the bride’s desire for drama include a yacht, which was said to have transported the couple between their Greek Orthodox ceremony and their lavish reception (attended by former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey and Congressman Steven Lynch, among other A-listers) at the Boston Harbor Hotel. No yacht, it turns out, but there was plenty of sophistication. The couple worked closely with their vendors (including Andrianna’s of Exeter, NH—who was "there every step of the way," raves Lekkakos) so that every detail of their August 2012 wedding, down to each guest’s place setting, had a touch of "M&M."

"It was about cultivating this taste of happiness, this extension of our everyday style: luxurious, contemporary, modern. I viewed the wedding planning the same way I’d view planning a business," Lekkakos says.

The couple cite their rock-solid foundation as the core of their partnership. "There was a moment of realization at the reception [when we thought], ‘We’re together, we’re one,’" says Harris. "You could feel the love and support in the room. It was very powerful." Lekkakos nods, adding, "It gave me a high to see everyone so happy—that we got to see everyone just have the time of their lives. I’ll have those memories forever. The material stuff just doesn’t matter."

On Working Apart

"I don’t want to [run my business like] Salon Marc Harris," Lekkakos says. "And he doesn’t want to [run his business like] M. Lekkakos Salon & Spa. But we think of how we can make each other’s individual brands stronger; we give each other advice. It works for us."

That also means a different approach to management. Harris has an operational team to help with his staff of 100; his role, he says, is to massage the relationship between team members—"the gray area," he calls it. He also spends up to three days a week behind his chair, providing the sleek signature styles for which  his salons are known. "I love the art of cutting hair. I love fashion. I love style. I’m a passionate person," he says.

Lekkakos, on the other hand, is fully engaged in managing her staff of 12—no easy task, says Harris, who spent his own time in the trenches while building his empire. "She wears a lot of hats," he says, "so she’s driven, she’s task-oriented, and she has success in mind." Lekkakos admits to picking her husband’s brain for inspiration as the salon side of her business evolves; Harris also relies on Lekkakos as a sounding board for trends in the spa industry.

"Our mantras are different," Harris says. "Hers is, ‘Hurry up, let’s get going.’ Mine is, ‘Let’s make it happen, and if you hurry up, it’s a job done poorly.’ She says, ‘No, not if it’s the right track.’ We spar. We laugh about it. But you know what?" he asks, glancing again at Lekkakos with a smile. "She’s right."

Working Together

Inspired by the success of Restaurant Week, the couple in 2010 began to lay out plans for a similar concept within the salon industry, where top salons would borrow Restaurant Week’s discounted pricing model as a way to attract new clients and create a buzz. In April 2012, Salon Week was born; it ran successfully again in October, including salons from Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, with another one in the works. "Salon Week encompasses an energy the industry is hungry for," Harris says. "We know we’re on the first step of the ladder. We want to bring this nationwide. Yeah, we’ve got a mountain to climb—but this is special, and we’re tenacious."

So are there are any additional plans for collaboration, like a product line, perhaps, or a co-branded salon? After acknowledging the intensity of their individual pursuits and the dedication needed to continue with Salon Week, neither sees the potential for additional joint projects just yet. Lekkakos’s clients will make sure of that, too—they’re constantly checking in to make sure M. Lekkakos Salon & Spa is staying put in Wenham. "I grew up in Rockport," she says, "and I love Wenham, how beautiful it is, and my clients."

At the end of the work day, the couple retires to their home in the Back Bay ("I get the best of both worlds," says Lekkakos, referring to her scenic commute up the coast). They admit it can be difficult to turn the switch to "off"—especially when they share so many of the same career joys and frustrations, not to mentiom a mile-long list of ideas. "We don’t have a traditional relationship," says Harris. "All day long, our plates are full, and a lot of it is very high stress. We know when we work hard and share a common goal, collectively, we’re stronger, and we feel equipped to handle whatever comes our way. But," he adds, "like any couple, we try to create an awareness. We say, ‘Okay, the day is over. It’s time to let it go, to sit down and have dinner, to be present.’"

Lekkakos adds, "When you deliver what you want and it happens, it’s [powerful]. It’s [inspiring]. It makes you feel so good that what you’re delivering is working. It’s an honor." In simpler terms, she says, "it’s magic."

M. Lekkakos Salon & Spa is located at 154 Main Street in Wenham. Salon hours, gift certificates, and additional information can be found at mlekkakos.com. Salon Marc Harris has multiple locations in Boston. For locations, hours, and more, visit salonmarcharris.com. To learn more about Salon Week, visit salonweek.com. Andrianna’s is located at 155a Front Street in Exeter, NH. Their products and services can be found online at andriannas.com. ●n

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