Owner of the doggie-friendly Shea Coco Beauty and her princess, Vanilla
By The Get Leashed Doggy Style Team
Toronto’s Yorkville district is known for its high-end style, from the fashion boutiques (hello Louis Vuitton!), to the luxury cars and hotels, and of course, the designer-doggies. We paid a visit to the chic and dog-friendly Shea Coco Beauty Salon, where some of the city’s most stylish pet owners and visiting celebrities come to have their own paws and claws groomed.
Shannon Yeh, a long-time Toronto resident originally from Taipei, is the beauty guru and owner behind the salon, where guests are greeted by her adorable Maltipoo, Vanilla.
Shannon and her team recently celebrated their 10th anniversary this past spring, but beauty was not always Shannon’s path. Read on as she shares why being dog-friendly is so important to her, and what inspires her passion as a business owner.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became a business owner:
In my family, I was a bit of a black sheep for not wanting to go the professional route. Most of my relatives are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, so after high school, when I didn’t get into a top school at home, my parents shipped me off to Canada! I studied Fashion Design at George Brown and learned English at the same time. 20 years later, I’m still here in Toronto! After graduating, I worked in retail management for Nicole Farhi (you may know her from French Connection), and then after visiting my hometown, Taipei, on a vacation, I stayed and became the youngest fashion editor ever at Harper’s Bazaar Taiwan. After 2 years and a terrible breakup, I moved back to Toronto and did some correspondence work during fashion weeks. Learning more about beauty, I became a consultant at Eleanor Fulcher’s modeling agency. After a year, I started brainstorming ideas on how I could work for myself. I had NO idea how to do nails or paint. I first rented a small space in Forest Hill, but the economy went bad and after 3 years, I decided to sell. When I found the Hazelton (current) location, it was a double down, but we have been smooth sailing ever since!
I don’t advertise, and I just found out we have a Yelp listing. My dog, Vanilla, is good PR!
It’s easy to see why your clients love Vanilla! When did you get her?
I’ve been a dog lover my whole life. I waited 10 years in between my last dog, Cookie, a black and white Lhasa Apso, before getting Vanilla. I still have his photos by my bed. When I finally worked up the nerve to get another dog, I searched for about three months and found Vanilla online. I knew I had to have her!
Vanilla will be 9 this August. She has always come to work with me, unless it’s too rainy or windy. She’s basically like a Beverly Hills dog!
We love the vibe inside Shea Coco. What’s important to you for your clients?
I love bringing my dog with me places, and I know my clients do too. It was very important for me to be dog-friendly. The neighbors on the street love to visit Vanilla, and so do my clients and especially their kids.
Sometimes we have clients with huskies come in, and it gets a little crazy because Vanilla gets jealous!
I like to update the look of the salon about every year and a half. I change the mood based on feeling. I like to keep things happy and bright – I’m a color person – and my clients come to me to treat themselves, like therapy – especially in the dead of winter.
At the moment, we are doing a ton of pastel colors for spring and glitter!
How would you describe your personal style?
I typically prefer Italian fashion. They’re all about PASSION! I wear a lot of Cavalli, Etro, and Pucci, and would say my style is usually one crazy piece paired with a simple outfit. I have never had a job where I was restricted to represent anything or look a certain way. I change my style, from dark-rock princess, to young and hippy, depending on my mood. I can go from all-black to very California, in ten different colors.
What inspires you?
I’m a real F&B girl. When I travel, I love to try new boutique hotels, restaurants, and bars, and get inspiration from their style. I bought these watermelon pillows on a recent trip to Verona. I actually bought a duffle bag for an extra carry-on in order to bring them back from Italy because I knew I had to have them for my salon! I love travelling, and have been to 147 cities now, but Vienna and Rome would be two of my favorites. I also love to cook and host, and would love to get a license to serve cocktails at Shea Coco, if I could still be dog-friendly.
It would be my dream to work in conservation for giraffes. I was able to spend a month in Africa and fell in love with the animals and culture.
Can you dish about any famous faces who’ve visited Shea Coco?
Celebrities like to stop in because we are secluded and hush hush. Lebron James recently came in and even let my girls take a photo with him.
No one bothers celebs here, and Kim Cattrall and Margot Robbie have both been to our tucked away spot.
Sometimes I make a fool of myself for not recognizing celebs, like Anna Silk, but luckily she was gracious in telling me that yes, she is the Lost Girl.
Roger Federer and his wife came in during the Rogers Cup, and she actually came back with a group of tennis wives. They were very sweet.
Finally, can you leave us with a funny story (or two) about Vanilla?
Vanilla is sometimes known as the Yorkville Party dog, and can be found enjoying a bowl of steamed veggies and hard-boiled eggs from my favorite hotel patio menus. Even today, I had more outfit choices for her than me. Vanilla gets a weekly professional shampoo and blow-dry – much more of a pampered life than her mom!
Visit Shannon and Vanilla at Shea Coco on Hazelton Avenue in Toronto.