By Deborah Bostock-Kelley
With her flagship store at Fletcher and Dale Mabry in the Fresh Market Plaza, celebrating twenty years in business, Lea Orchard is building a legacy with Great Clips. A mother of four, her dream was to keep the business in the family. The plan is coming to fruition: her 28-year-old son, Sam, involved in the family business since high school, has officially joined the company as a second general manager covering information technology, recruiting, and human resources.
“We think a family-owned business is better for our customers,” said owner Lea Orchard.
A longtime resident of Tampa, Lea got in on the ground floor when Great Clips first came to the Tampa Bay area in 2001. She was the first to bring the Great Clips franchise to her community.
It wasn’t always easy. Over two decades ago, Great Clips did not yet have the renowned name or recognition in the Bay area.
“At first, people thought we sold hair clips!” said Lea.
Fast forward twenty years and Lea will be opening her thirteenth location at the end of May. There are now 85 Great Clips locations across the Tampa Bay area, and 4,700 total in the United States and Canada.
You don’t need to ask the employees of Great Clips if they like what they do for a living; the proof is found on the faces of their satisfied customers. Friendly banter and customer relationships separate Great Clips from the rest of the wallet-friendly haircutting shops. This is one of the reasons that generations of customers keep coming back.
The walls of the shops are lined with photos of all the little league baseball teams the shop has sponsored. Now, as adults, they remain loyal customers of their favorite shop.
“It’s a wonderful feeling. You look at the wall of all the teams we’ve sponsored, and those kids are grownups now, and they keep coming back. We’re not a big conglomerate. It’s a family-owned business serving generations in the community. Every time I visit a shop, I know someone in the chair.”
Lea is currently adding to her staff, looking for licensed cosmetologists and barbers. She offers competitive wages, benefits, and even a 401K.
“I won’t keep anybody that I wouldn’t let cut my hair,” she explained the process of selecting the talented stylists that have become her second family in her many shops.
The stylists stay up to date on the newest trends in hair. They are seeing the departure of the man bun, the return of the mullet for men, and a modified mullet called a Wolf cut for women. The 70s Farrah Fawcett layer cut is making a comeback in 2022.
Lea explained that people are finally returning for real haircuts after two years of either letting hair grow out or unfortunate home haircuts during the pandemic.
“Working from home, people didn’t care, but they are going back to the office or getting on Zoom, and they want to look good. During Covid, Walmart sold out of clippers,” she joked. “Now, they’re saying, ‘ok, I can’t cut my own hair anymore. It’s time for a professional.’”
The stylists at Great Clips keep detailed notes on the computer for every client. As soon as you sit in the chair and the cape is draped and snapped closed, the stylist can recap what was done before and ask what the customer had in mind for this visit.
“We check the notes. Consultation is huge. We tell them, ‘this is what we did last time. What do you want to do today?’ ”
Technology has also helped reduce any wait time at the shop. Guests can check-in online and join the waitlist, ensuring little to no wait time when they arrive.
“Our online check-in is amazing,” she said. “You can look and see what the wait is at a particular store. If there’s a 20-minute wait, you sign in right then, and 20 minutes later, you come in. No matter who came in here after you signed in online, you are in front of them. You get called first before the people who didn’t check in online.”
Lea is a member of several networking groups including the Carrollwood Area Business Association (CABA), where she was the 2012 president. She says one of the best things about networking is that people talk to her about their experiences in her shops.
She said that her shops are family-oriented. Seventy percent of her customers are men and families. The women tend to come after their husband or child has had a haircut. While they can spend hundreds of dollars on color elsewhere, more women have discovered the benefit of saving money by coming to Great Clips for a $17 haircut. Haircuts for seniors and children are $15.
Lea’s Great Clips salons also proudly provide a $2 discount to military, firefighters, and police.
Whether sponsoring little league, girls’ softball, USF Cuts for Cancer, golf tournaments, or the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lea is all about giving back to the community.
She says that her shops will always be family-oriented, especially now that her son will continue helping her grow that legacy. “We offer affordable quality haircuts that fit the busy schedule of the whole family. We love being a family-owned business.”
The following local stores are owned by the Orchard family:
Carrollwood – located in the plaza with Fresh Market on the corner of Fletcher and Dale Mabry, in the Palms of Carrollwood at 13129 B, N Dale Mabry Hwy; (813) 969-2960
Lutz – located on the corner of Lutz Lake Fern and Dale Mabry, in Lutz Lake Crossing at 19231 N Dale Mabry Hwy; (813) 909-4125
Citrus Park- located across from Sickles High School on the corner of Sheldon and Gunn, in the Shoppes of Citrus Park at 7851 Gunn Hwy; (813) 920-1100
Pasco County – located on the corner of State Rd. 54 and Livingston, in the Shoppes at Grand Cypress at 23388 State Rd. 54; (813) 949-5999
Lea’s stores are all open 7 days a week for customer convenience.