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Katie Morgan-Lousky wasn't trying to prove that a business such as a Ahava Spa and Wellness Center, in St. Clair Village, could survive in a renovated storefront downtown.
And Ms. Morgan-Lousky, a hair stylist for 27 years in the Westgate and Sylvania areas, wasn't trying to show that her clientele would be willing to drive from places such as Perrysburg and Sylvania for Ahava's services.
But it has and they have.
Now, with her business up and chugging, Ms. Morgan-Lousky, 44, is able to focus on a new nonprofit venture: She's offering free beauty services to people in need.
Ahava Ministries, Ms. Morgan-Lousky's dream, provides free spa and salon services to those diagnosed and receiving treatment for cancer. She said she was inspired to look into establishing a nonprofit about three years ago.
"I can't really explain it except to say I've been called to do it," said Ms. Morgan-Lousky, whose husband, Ted Lousky, acts as her business partner. "Every time I would say 'I couldn't do this,' I would hear an inspirational talk or read something, and I would pull everything out again."
Ms. Morgan-Lousky said the idea to tend to cancer patients came from the death of a friend. A room in the spa is dedicated to Mr. Lousky's sister, Esther, who died of cancer. And along the way, several clients were diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Ms. Morgan-Lousky said her idea to provide free spa and hair care to cancer patients became her passion.
She transformed the once empty and dark storefront at 34 St. Clair St. into a modern salon and spa with bright colors, hardwood floors, exposed brick, and creative lighting.
Christy Weiss, a hair stylist who worked with Ms. Morgan-Lousky in Sylvania, followed her to Ahava.
"Katie is a wonderful person, and I knew she would be a wonderful boss," Ms. Weiss said. "I think we all believe in what she was doing. When I stepped in [the new spa], I knew I had to be a part of it. I just knew it was going to be a success."
Ms. Weiss said they worried that their customers wouldn't travel from the suburbs and other parts of Toledo to downtown. She said their concern was dispelled within the first month of business as many of the stylists' regulars came through the door.
Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said Ms. Morgan-Lousky's success is an example of downtown's business potential.
"She made a terrific improvement to the building, and she has a tremendous vision for outreach to cancer [patients]," Ms. Steingraber said. "Her business has been booming, and she has provided a tremendous service for people downtown. If people are willing to take the risk, there is an opportunity for tremendous success here."
Peg Lucius, who has fought recurring lung cancer for three years, said the spa treatment at Ahava makes her feel like a woman again. Ms. Lucius said the Ahava staff pampered her, restyled her wig, and did her make-up. The spa treatments for cancer patients, whom Ms. Morgan-Lousky calls her "special guests," would cost a paying customer more than $200.
"I've been to spas before, but [at Ahava,] they really cater to you instead of 'this is our package and this is what you get,' " said Ms. Lucius, 43, of Tiffin. "It was very inspiring. They made me look good and feel good about myself."
Robin Isenberg, executive director of the Victory Center, a local nonprofit that helps cancer patients deal with the mental and emotional aspects of cancer, said she salutes Ms. Morgan-Lousky for her interest and compassion for cancer patients.
Ms. Isenberg said she sees Ms. Morgan-Lousky's service not as a competitor with her own organization and other service providers for cancer patients, but a complement.
"We hope we can do things with them and do some joint projects," Ms. Isenberg said. "I think the more things we can do to help cancer patients, the better. I think what she does is invaluable."
Bill Schroeder, Northwest Ohio communications director for the American Cancer Society, and a cancer survivor himself, said even though he has not seen Ahava, he thinks the concept of showing such compassion and attention to patients can be nothing but a positive.
Ahava's for-profit salon has been funding the nonprofit efforts so far, but Ahava Ministries will host its first fund-raiser on March 14 with a wine-and-cheese event at Old Navy Bistro.
Contact Clyde Hughes at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.
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