It’s hard to find a retail resume that’s more impressive than Joyce Hampers’.
It starts with an undergrad degree from Boston College and a law degree from Boston University. After that, a private law practice followed by an appointment by William Weld (then governor of Massachusetts) as commissioner of revenue in 1975. And when President George Bush was elected in 1989, she became U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce.
Hampers could have retired right there and been quite accomplished. But a slew of Boston area residents are thankful that she hasn’t. She has capitalized on her experience by changing directions.
After moving back to Boston, an appointment at a hair salon sparked an epiphany: How come there’s no business that will accommodate hair, nails and overall wellness under one roof?
At the time, there were only about 250 day spas in the country. She opened the G2O day spa in 1994 with a hair salon and three rooms for facials and massage. It was so successful that she expanded in 1998 and then again in 2001. Then she purchased two adjacent buildings and re-purposed them into one 13,500-square-foot facility where it is now the leading destination spa in metropolitan Boston.
“When I first opened the spa, I'd been preaching small business for four years traveling the United States and telling people that they need to foster and create entrepreneurship in their areas,” she said. “That’s how you build the economic infrastructure, by creating local businesses and small businesses. Then I came back to Boston and I said, ‘You know, I really would like to do a small business. I've never run a small business.’”
It’s 26 years later, and Hampers is a fixture on the Boston retail scene, not only by virtue of her business acumen but in her leadership as president of the Newbury Street League Business Association. She is right in the eye of the retail hurricane known as the coronavirus. She has steered the organization toward helping its members and their employees navigate the tangle of rules and regulations that can help them access newly established government relief programs.
“The thing that worries me the most is that our business is high-touch,” said Hampers. “And we can't practice social distancing and do our job. Also, I think the government is also overwhelmed by this. I mean, it's just a real whammy. I have nothing but doctors in my family, all my sons and my husband are doctors, and they look at the current situation and try to think of ways they could have prepared for this, and they end up shaking their heads. What do you do for something like this? I can't really criticize. I mean, I know I've heard the criticism that [the federal government] didn't move fast enough. The only thing I would criticize is that they didn’t get testing done early enough.”
Not that she is throwing up her hands about doing business during COVID-19, managers and other employees (she has over 100) have received help with unemployment forms. She has regular Zoom meetings with her advertising team to find ways to communicate with customers and even craft new offers for them. Several “home” product kits have been assembled across all of G20s services from haircare to nails. Emails with customers are sent frequently. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to cover employee expenses while the spa is closed.
“I have a feeling we have such wonderful clients that they will buy these packages whether they need the products or not because they really care about our employees,” she said. “They have a relationship with their favorite esthetician, nail tech, hairdresser or whoever, and they inquire about how the employees are doing.”
Hampers has also found an opportunity for education. She is a valuable customer of many large suppliers like L’Oreal and SkinCeuticals. They and others have become more proactive about training and education during down time. This works well for her staff who are mostly extroverts and sitting at home isolated.
“I know the business will come back if it's allowed to come back,” Hampers said. “We just have to see whether or not that will happen. But in the meantime, we're keeping our people active, and I know they're hanging in there. I think communication is the essence of what we do. We have to keep in touch with them. We have to keep making them feel like they're a team and that we're together even if we're apart. And same thing with our or their clients. And we're coming up at all kinds of ways to keep them in the fold, to keep us all, you know, as a team together with our customers.”