Focus On What You Do Best

By Joe Randazzo
Wednesday - September 07, 2005
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Joe Randazzo (far right) watches as Jaime
Malapit Jr. gives Lauri Hovis a hair extension

J Salon is celebrating our two-year anniversary at our Chinatown location this fall. People thought we were crazy to open an upscale salon here, but we’ve done better than we ever anticipated. I credit a few guiding principles:

Choose quality over quantity. Focus on what you do best. Recognize the importance of appearance.

Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Take your business seriously, but don’t forget to have fun.

I’ve been following these principles since I first started in the hairstyling business. I spent two decades training and teaching the Vidal Sassoon method in New York and Chicago. At J Salon we’ve evolved that method, and we’re constantly training our team in some of the same concepts. Sassoon was all about the cut - back in those days, our motto was, “It’s the cut that counts.” He did Mia Farrow’s cropped style in Rosemary’s Baby, he did Mary Quant’s fantastic A-line bob. It blew everyone away. Sassoon was a revolutionary force in hairstyling because he focused on the one thing he did best.

At J Salon, we focus on being the very best at the basics: hair (cut, color, extensions), nails and makeup. We are not a full-service spa. I think we’ve been successful because we know who we are and what we provide.

Spas have been all the rage recently, but I believe the importance of a good cut is coming back to the forefront. People are realizing that while the feel-good effects of a massage or body scrub may last for 24 hours, a good haircut and color can transform you for months. It’s a fact that when you know you look good, people perceive you differently. That boosts your confidence and affects your work performance, your relationships, how others respond to you.

We never stop working at being the best. Our staff participates in weekly training sessions to hone their craft. Our cuts are rooted in the Sassoon precision method, always with an eye toward blending global fashion currents with the realities of a client’s needs. Our hair extensions are by Great Lengths, hard to come by in Hawaii but widely known as the gold standard in the business. Our color techniques are cutting edge - right now we’re pioneering a technique we call “color melting” to provide a rich, natural, multi-dimensional look. Our makeup line is all-natural mineral product.

If you focus on the basics and always insist on quality, you can’t go wrong.

Being in the business of appearances (but this is true even if you’re not), we knew our salon needed to make a statement - and keep on making a statement. When we opened, we wanted to create a space that was modern yet comfortable and welcoming. It’s New York metro cool, upscale but basic with a dose of warmth and aloha. It’s a place where men and women feel equally comfortable. We change our color scheme and artwork seasonally. We pay attention to the little things - even down to the offbeat periodicals you’ll find in the lounge. Clients find it continually surprising and refreshing.

That goes for the client experience as well. It’s crucial that our clients get exceptional service, not only with the best cut and color possible, but with the best experience. You’re not going to be blasted with attitude here. We greet all our clients by name the moment they walk in the door. We make it our business to know their lifestyle, who they are and who they want to be, so we can articulate that into the best cut and style - even if sometimes they can’t!

I believe you can strive for the best and take a risk at the same time. For instance: Our product line will soon consist of a single brand. We recently became one of only two salons selected on Oahu to carry the exclusive Kerastase haircare product line. We were always minimalists (we don’t want to be a Wal-Mart, and personally, I believe clutter is a killer, whether it’s your home or your business). But we made the decision to eliminate our other two product lines and will offer only Kerastase, because we believe it is simply the best.

Is that a risk? Sure. But because we’ve staked a reputation on quality, our clients know we won’t steer them wrong.

And of course taking risks is the spice of life (and business!). We’re thrilled to have taken a chance on Chinatown two years ago. We opened J Salon on Nuuanu Avenue in November 2003 and the timing couldn’t have been better. Back then, people only knew of a few pioneers like Indigo and ARTS at Marks Garage. Now, you can have lunch at Grand Café, shop at INTO, check out local art at more than a dozen galleries - it’s a complete neighborhood experience.

I especially love being in a place where business owners are not wedded to the trendy and mainstream. They are following their hearts and their passions. Not only are they are being rewarded, but Honolulu is becoming a better place for it.

J Salon is located at 1128 Nuuanu Ave. Call 550-4441.

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