TUCKED IN AN OBSCURE POCKET OF MASS AVENUE, Your Hair Salon could easily be overlooked by Your Average Pedestrian. But behind its unassuming facade lurks Not Your Everyday Coiffure Shop...
At Your Hair, your stylist will not only give you advice on whether you should get a bob or a shag; she'll help you plan that dream getaway to Martinique.
Your Hair has operated as a joint hair salon and travel agency since last November, under the auspices of owner Bernice L. Thomas. Prior to last year, Thomas conducted Your Hair purely as a hirsute venture.
When you enter the store, you can't help but feel a little disoriented by the dualistic nature of the place--the front of the store is crisp and office-like, accented by granite tiling and wooden panels, while the other two-thirds of the establishment is plush, richly textured, and riddled with hair care products. Thomas said that she is required by law to have two distinct waiting rooms and a boundary between the two "offices."
Bizarre as the concept may seem, patrons of Your Hair often use both services, Thomas reported. If anything, mixing the two media--travel and tresses--seemed logical to Thomas. Before the travel agency was added, many of her clients wanted their hair done before they went abroad. "A lot of people get haircuts because they have a plane to catch," she explains.
Thomas has devised a system which allows her--with the help of her small staff--to juggle both coifs and cruises. As you're waiting for your haircut, you jot down the kind of package you're looking for on a slip of paper, and then leave the proposal for Thomas's perusal. After closing shop, Thomas consults her computer for the lowest prices, and puts together the package according to your specifications. Then it's up to you to follow through and call for the price quotes.
On one hand, this system allows Thomas to cut hair uninterrupted. On the other hand, it puts very little pressure on customers.
"No one has to feel embarrassed about saying no to a package," she said. "If they're interested, they'll buy."
Thomas indicated that the idea is not as newfangled as people seem to think. The hair salon/travel agency phenomenon can be found all over England, where it was first launched by a failed airline company tycoon named Freddy Laker. But according to Thomas, a native of the Caribbean who speaks 5 languages and travels extensively throughout the world, Your Hair is the only enterprise of its kind in the United States.
Thomas was inspired by Laker's brainchild in the early 80s. It was not until last year, when she received her travel agent accreditation at the Crimson Travel School, that Thomas could include travel plans in Your Hair Salon.
In the interim period, she freelanced as a travel salesperson, selling vacation packages to her regular hair clientele, and studied hair technique in Europe.
"I was very interested in how Europeans maintained their hair, especially in England, where it rains all the time," Thomas said.
While in Europe, she also learned how to handle "diverse" hair types, so that when she came back to Harvard Square, she would be able to meet the special needs of a multi-ethnic community. Indeed, her customers "come from all races," Thomas said.
Thomas admitted that the store's novelty often attracts new customers. It even lured a gaggle of reporters from Japan and China.
"People, when they hear about this, have one of two reactions: they either think you're crazy, or they laugh at you. They're not ready for this new idea," Thomas said.
For Thomas, Your Hair is no laughing matter. "It's no joke, it can be a dangerous business You have to know about every little thing--the weather, insurance, immunization, and visas--otherwise you can get in trouble," she said.
Despite the potential risk inherent to the business, Thomas says that she has had a good time thus far. "It's been fun--there are some nice benefits, and I get to travel a lot. It's a promising business. I keep learning more and more. This is a business that's good for the rest of your life. I can always fall back on it, in case I decide to retire and not cut hair anymore. It's the husband that I never looked for."
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