Sarah Nyssen and Vivian Fox have something in common – they have both been the owners of Elise hair salon on Tukuka St. Photo: Charles Anderson

Cutting connection for hair salon


When Vivian Fox sat down to judge one particular entry at this year’s Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce business awards she felt like she had seen a ghost.

Staring back at her was Elise Hair Design – the very same business that Vivian took over thirty years earlier as a  fresh faced 16-year-old.

Vivian Fox hard at work at Elise as a young woman. Photo: Supplied.
Vivian Fox hard at work at Elise as a young woman. Photo: Supplied.

“I was just flabbergasted, to be honest,” she says. “It was so unbelievable to go back to that same business.”

The hair salon has kept its name over all those years – perhaps the only such business to have done so.

The new owner was Sarah Nyssen, who bought the business last year and is setting about breathing new life into it. She has renovated the inside and is slowly working her way freshening it up.

The experience led Vivian, now a successful career businesswoman with myriad ventures in the hospitality industry, on a trip down memory lane.

“It was my first ever business,” she says. “It was wonderful.”

Vivian left school when she was 15 and had worked at the salon on Tukuka St.

Then the opportunity came up to buy the place and her parents decided to help out.

“The owner told my parents I was more than capable, so away we went,” Vivian says. “I never could have done it without that help.”

Vivian sold Elise when she was 21 and set about building a successful career. She started other hair salons before moving into hospitality, including owning the Smokehouse and Apple Shed at Mapua and Saltwater on Wakefield Quay.

“I look back and think ‘god, that was the beginning of my life’. I’ve self-employed ever since.”

Vivian was impressed with what Sarah was trying to bring to Elise.

“She’s really thinking outside the square.”

Sarah had been a beauty therapist for nine years and thought it was time to have her own space.

“Randomly this place came up and it was just a hair salon, and I saw huge potential to have hair and beauty. So I took the leap.”

She says it was great to have a connection with Vivian. 

“It felt really cool for her to see what I have done with the place.”

Sarah was leaning towards changing the name of the salon but after seeing its heritage she is leaning towards keeping it.

Vivian says she was delighted with Elise.

“So many things have come and gone and to think that that place has stayed there with the same name. It’s wonderful.”