Combining Her Love of Art and Style. Meet Erika Sorbello of Gallery Salon

Photography by Julia Hart of Julia Hart Video & Photo

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I’m Erika Sorbello, owner and stylist at Gallery Salon. I opened Gallery in July 2005 (just shy of my 26th birthday) at my original location on University Ave in the Neighborhood of the Arts. I decided to mix my love of art and hair by hosting Rochester artists for shows at the salon. I wanted my clients to experience and expose them to the amazing local talent that they may not otherwise know about! In 2014, Gallery Salon moved into its new home at 4 Elton Street and we couldn’t be happier. There’s so much more space for the 6 art shows we have every year as well as our growing holiday shopping event, the Wonderful Little Artisan Sale. We just completed our 7th annual WLAS and we joined forces with a few neighbors to make it out most successful year yet. Emerson & Oliver,  Studio 34 and Three Heads Brewing helped us host almost 40 Rochester artisans and over 400 attendants. 

What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
My truest passion in my life is being a mother. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I feel lucky everyday for it. Being able to create my career and help others with theirs, makes me so happy.  Bringing clients and artists together in Rochester is what my salon is all about. 

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I moved to Rochester in 1997 to go to Nazareth College for Art Education and immediately knew this is where I wanted to be. Soon after my sophomore year I decided to redirect my path of art into doing hair. I was on my own in a new city and knew I had to make it work. I held multiple jobs while building my clientele, which was difficult at times and exhausting. But I knew what I wanted so I stayed focused and made it happen somehow.

What is your biggest regret?
Regret isn’t a word in my vocabulary. Every decision I’ve made has brought me to where I am now. I have however had plenty learning lessons. I started my salon without any prior knowledge on how to actually run a business...I have often thought about how things would have been if I had taken business or management classes. I’ve learned everything I know by asking and seeking knowledge in the only way I know how to. And I’m grateful for what I’ve accomplished. 

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
I wish someone had told me not to worry about what everyone else is doing. At times, I thought I had to “keep up with the Joneses”. I’ve learned to create my own template. What works for other people doesn’t necessarily work for me! The biggest piece of advice I’d give to other people starting a business would be, there may be times when you don’t have the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

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Lettering by Kaye Licherdell of Kaye's Colors & Calligraphy

How do you find balance?
I spend most of my free time with my 3 year old daughter, Viola. I stay present with her and try not to think much about the salon and work during that time. She keeps me active, young and makes my heart burst with joy! My friend/family time is also super important to me. I’m very blessed with the staff I have working at Gallery. I have the best front end manager, Katelin, that has taken on some of my daily tasks and has helped me lighten my load. When I’m not at the salon, I can rest easy knowing that everything will be taken care of.

What is the most challenging part of running your business?
I think the most challenging part is how much and how fast Gallery has grown. I have 16 girls in the salon that all have needs as well as my 250 plus clientele. At times it can be a lot to handle, along with the behind the scenes stuff that most of them don’t know or have to worry about. Paperwork, ordering, employee training, dealing with conflict/resolution... juggling all the balls alone can be difficult. But I have a supportive team as well as family and friends that are always willing to help me out when they can.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
There are so many parts of my job that I absolutely love! First and foremost is the freedom of creativity most of my loyal clients allow me to have. I am surrounded by constant artistry and amazing creativity both with my stylists and nail techs and the art on my walls. A very close second is the amount of amazing relationships I have developed over the 17 years in this industry. Most of my long time clients have become like family. 

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Name some local creatives/business owners that you really admire.
There are so many business owners that have influenced me and that I look to for help.....the first people that always come to mind are Kelly and Aaron Metras. I aspire to have their strong relationship and the power to be able to balance 3 businesses and a very busy growing family. They’re truly remarkable and are always encouraging and continue to support me in my ventures.

Rebecca Fien of rebeccanatalie.com and Katie Kovar of Sweet Kiwi Events are two up and coming inspirational woman to be on the lookout for! They’re constantly helping me take Gallery Salon to the next level through web design, marketing and event planning. They’re both busy mom’s with young, growing businesses and are now also the backbone of WLAS.