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Rita El-Khouri Named Businesswoman of the Year by the Andrews Chamber of Commerce

By Lizz Harold
| Thursday, December 29, 2011 9:43 AM CST

Rita and client, thanks to the Andrews JournalSalon El-Khouri owner Rita El-Khouri took an unassuming, familial stomping ground and created a chic, high-end atmosphere for clients to experience her brand of hair design.

Her customers are loyal to the styling technique and El-Khouri’s ability to make women feel like they’re in a cosmopolitan hair studio far from Andrews. The interior alone, where the latest runway looks are played on multiple screens, speaks to how she approaches each client with a fashion-forward attitude.

“I give 100 percent. I get all emotionally wrapped up in what I’m creating. I almost eat, sleep and breathe it. My goal is to communicate properly to give the client what they want,” El-Khouri said.

“I’m kind of – not obsessed – but I have a constant awareness of new information from the media and online. I still continue to go to two hair shows a year in New York City and Orlando, Fla.”

Over the past three years, she’s built up a reputation worthy of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year award. She received it at the chamber’s annual dinner on Dec. 8.

“I was surprised. I’m really just an artist. It’s almost like carving,” El-Khouri said of being pinned with the badge of being the community’s leading female business owner.

El-Khouri opened the salon in 2008 after moving to the area with husband, Anthony, and five children in 2005. She came into a family with a recognizable surname. It’s well-known to locals who walked through her salon’s doors when it was once a department store owned by her husband’s father, Joe El-Khouri.

She said her work ethic comes from her father, who started a landfill in Gainesville, Ga., and sold it to Waste Management. He also found time to raise exotic Brahma bulls.

“I got my hard-working motivation from him because I witnessed him open several businesses over the years,” she said.

El-Khouri started cutting hair at 18 and later trained under Don Shaw Hairdressers in Atlanta. She joined the Don Shaw team as a member of the Intercoiffure International Organization of High-Quality Hairdressing. She competed in cutting and styling on stage at hair shows in New York City, and traveled abroad for study in London.

Before Salon El-Khouri opened in Andrews, she operated a salon of the same name for nine years in the Perimeter Pointe area of Atlanta. The hectic scheduling and stress of the other salon isn’t what she ultimately wanted for herself and her family.

“I solicited only high-end hairdressers. I’m really in my element now working by myself with two assistants,” she said, adding that city life made her feel like she was spending more time “living in my car” than being with family.

She put the breaks on that lifestyle and moved to Andrews for a simpler pace.

El-Khouri received popularity for offering a wide range of hair products and treatments. Hair enhancements, organic hair color and the Wig Studio, an in-house wig store, are being supplied because customers tell her it’s what they want. It’s made the salon as one of the most visited storefronts on Main Street.

“I was surprised. I never thought I would be this busy in a small town,” she said.

El-Khouri books appointments to make women feel renewed. A hair weave isn’t just an accessory when a woman is battling cancer.

In addition to supplying quality wigs for everyone, the Wig Studio services women who need hair to wear due to medical reasons, like alopecia and chemotherapy treatments, El-Khouri said. All wig fittings are complimentary. She has a vision to expand the wig store in 2012.

“I’ve always had a passion for hair that you wear,” El-Khouri said.

“It’s been a wonderful retail add-on to the business. It is rewarding to be able to give a client hair enhancement.”