This week’s Q & A feature is MaryAnne Banta, owner of the Sanibel Beauty Salon. Keep reading to find out some of this Sanibel native’s favorite memories from growing up on the islands and why one of her clever, spur-of-the-moment ideas caused a costume company to track her down!
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised on Sanibel, B.C. (before causeway) and what a great place to grow up. I'm sure for the grown-ups it was tough, but as a kid, we had everything we ever wanted — great friends, great weather, beautiful beaches. We all worked hard and played hard. If we needed money, we would crawl under the "B'hive gourmet store" (it’s no longer here) and collect all the coins that fell through the wooden deck next to the coke machine — or go diving for golf balls. There was always some tourist that wanted to buy them from you. (I think that was when I discovered the joys of tourist season)
Growing up (in the Sanibel Beauty Salon), I would help my mom (Mary Aleck) by taking rollers out of her customers’ hair. The customers would give me a nickel or a quarter, and cha-ching! I was rich!
I was loving life, but I must have been a pain it the patutti, ‘cause next thing I knew, I was in Sanibel elementary school. (My uncle Nick was the first principle, so even though I was only four, he lied about my age, let me in and told my mom that no one would ever know). Now, mind you, it was nothing like it is now. There was an office and a storage room with "The Refrigerator" in it. The fridge use to leak, so there was always a puddle under it. If it was your turn to go get everyone’s lunch milk, you would get zapped when you touched the door. If you came back all shook up, everyone would laugh at you — if you didn't, everyone, even the teacher, would run out to look and see what you did to get around it. We learned to be very creative then.
There were only three rooms in the school: one had first, second and third grade in it; one had fourth, fifth and sixth and one was the library.
My age wasn’t found out until I was set to take my state board exam. You had to be a high school graduate (I was) and 18 years old (I was almost 17). My school went to bat for me and convinced the state board to let me take my exam with my class, and I would wait to go to work. The state board agreed and after I aced my exam, the state board gave me my license and told me to go to work.
What's your family like?
I grew up with a wonderfully dysfunctional but hard-working family, and now I am blessed with a great husband who can fix anything and help me design anything that I need (like my new salon) and an amazing daughter who also grew up with a love for the art and creativity of hairdressing.
So what's it like running the family business?
It’s where all the magic happens! I am very proud of where we started and how far we have come. My Mom started with her little salon on Periwinkle Way on March 25, 1951 — and even though her equipment had not arrived in time, she was determined to open on March 25 because that’s Greek Independence Day. On that day, she celebrated both her Greek heritage and her independence as a pioneer business woman. As unbelievable as it sounds, she had to have her husband sign papers in court, saying that she was competent, as a woman, to own a business.
Later, with her brother, she built the “Island Shopping Center” (now known as Bailey’s center) and a new salon. We were there for 59 years and many, many remodels (thanks, Honey-do), and then, nine months ago , we moved to Palm Ridge Road. It’s like a beautiful omen to me — Mom had her salon, I had my own salons (at one time Sanibel Beauty Salon, Hair’s What’s Hot, and The Locker Room) and now (not today, but in the future) I will pass the legacy on to the third generation, my daughter Deena.
In your free time, what do you like to do?
I love to fish and I love challenges: puzzles, fixing things, make-it-happen kind of stuff. I like to think of myself as a MacGyver. I like to be efficient — no wasted time, no wasted motion.
I understand that you once dressed up as a sumo wrestler for Halloween? Where did that idea come from?
I did! It was great, but really hot! I had no clue what I wanted to dress up as, but everyone in the salon wanted to dress up...so, I actually was at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and I needed some pillow stuffing for something I was making, and I had an “Aha!” moment!
I always wore support hose at work, so I thought, I’ll just stuff the hose from the second I put them on, and then I’ll take another pair and cut out the crotch, stick my head thru, and stuck my hands down the legs, stuffing the whole time. I bought some burlap to wrap around my waist so you couldn’t see the waistbands and voila! I pulled my hair back and put white on my face and drew funky eyebrows. I won every contest everywhere I went. A costume company hunted me down through my picture in the paper and wanted to buy the rights to the costume. I told them what was right with it and what was wrong with it, They went on to make a blow-up one that you could put on. Pretty cool!
So, what's your "ultimate Halloween costume?"
I don't know about MY ultimate costume, but I always felt that Halloween was the one day a year that you could do, say, act, feel, be any way that you wanted, ‘cause it was "your costume.” So, be yourself and let-’er-rip!
As a hair stylist, I bet you get this question a lot: what's the best way to take care of frizzy or curly hair in this Southwest Florida humidity?
Actually, there are three different categories of curly hair and it depends on if you love your curls and want to encourage them or if you don’t like them and want to smooth, straighten or redirect them. It’s more complicated than you think and would take up way too much space to get into it here, but anyone who wants an answer, call me! Or better yet, stop by and I’ll help you! On a personal note: I have flat, straight hair and I would give anything to have great big wild Texas hair!
Who or what inspires you most in life?
Growing up, my Mommie inspired me. Everyone loved her — and who doesn’t want to be loved? She was a strong woman, an incredibly hard worker, and by the grace of God, she loved us kids. I’m sure some days were harder then others...I was very creative, but sought her approval by also working hard and trying to always honor the family name.
Now, my daughter inspires me. She has great hands, is smart and beautiful and a huge asset to the salon. She is like me — only better. Some members of my staff inspire me. I am surrounded by such great talent. My husband Joe inspires me for lots of reasons that that you can only understand with true love, understanding, respect and going through the things that we have been through that did not destroy us, but made us stronger.
What does the future hold for you?
I am on a diet, working out, and saving to go on vacation next September. I’m going to rock a bikini and I want a little umbrella in every drink that I am served!
And what will you be for Halloween this year?
You will just have to wait and see...
MaryAnne Banta, owner of the Sanibel Beauty Salon