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A cut above

Theres really no excuse aside from the constraints of your own wallet for a bad hair day in Aspen.The reason? Aspen is home to 29 beauty salons, 22 of which focus on hair, according to the Yellow Pages.The market here is great, said Jeff Novak, owner and hair stylist at Lather Salon Aspen. A lot of visitors that come here are from larger markets, where theres a focus on beauty and fashion. I think people have a preconceived notion that Aspen is going to have beauty salons with talented people ready to take care of them. Still, with a year-round population of roughly 6,000 people, its a wonder all these salons survive. The owners of three decidedly different Aspen beauty parlors arent surprised, though, contending their boutiques fill different niches and cater to unique clienteles. Tried, true and taking over a new locationMichael Tullio, one of Aspens best known hairstylists, recently proved his longevity and success in the hair-care market by purchasing a Victorian on Main Street in which to set up shop.Tullio currently snips and colors at The Aspen Club & Spa, a temporary arrangement until his new location is ready in February. His local hair-care experience dates to his arrival in town in 1978. He worked for La Femme, was self-employed, had a chair at On Location, and in 1992 opened his own Salon Tullio.I specialize in the art of consistency and putting great groups of people together, he said recently, referring to his staff of stylists and estheticians.Currently in transition from a commercial core location to Main Street (where Geraniums n Sunshine most recently was housed), Tullios business philosophy is also in flux.Were going back to the roots of Aspen, welcoming the older-type charm back, he said. Its a 120-year-old building, and it wont be your typical beauty salon. Its going to be a home-furnished space to hang out and get services done.A Zen atmosphere for hairSeveral blocks down Main Street from Tullios new location is Lather Salon Aspen, a relative newcomer to the local scene.On a recent winter morning, the atmosphere in Lather was warm and soothing. Designed to be spiritual, serene and non-threatening, the salon features lit candles in wall recesses, chanting music in the background, and a Chinese character that means beauty on the wall overlooking the entire salon.Ive always felt that there was something lacking in the salon environment you walk in and theres dance music playing, and you dont know if youre cool enough to be there. It always seemed like a Hi, please wait-to-be-ignored type of thing, and I didnt want any of that, explained Lather owner Jeff Novak.Trained in Pittsburgh, Novak moved to Aspen in 1995. He worked at Salon Tullio for seven years before deciding to open his own salon in March 2003; three other stylists from Tullios salon joined Novak.I think its a great thing to be a salon owner in Aspen, he said. Every day I walk down the street and see clients that dont go to Lather. There are plenty of clients to go around. I dont feel threatened in any way by the other salons in town.Rather, Novak would like to see local salons work together to accommodate as many customers with the best possible service.It is art, and we need to continue to refine and reinvent ourselves, he said. We need to continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.Saving money on a face-liftBringing Aspens hair revolution full circle is Pascal Bensimons new salon, which opened in November in the space on Hyman Avenue formerly occupied by Salon Tullio.Walk into Haute Coiffure, as Bensimons salon is known, and its clear youre somewhere youll be considered important.The high ceilings and widespread furniture emphasize that youre one of the only people in the large hair studio. While your locks are being shampooed and conditioned, you lie on a bedlike surface with a personal trainer gently stretching your legs.Bensimon is trained in the French technique of hair styling, working in Paris, New York and then Atlanta before being brought to Aspen by a local resident who discovered his talents on an East Coast trip. He said hes developed his own technique over time by carefully considering the shape of someones face before cutting their hair appropriately.Im different from anybody on the planet, he said. I developed this concept, and I thought of what would be the best for a woman to feel like a queen. I give a woman a new dimension of beauty.Rose Ann Leiner, the client and friend who coaxed Bensimon to move to Aspen, agrees.Its not just a haircut its a makeover and a face-lift, she said. If some women knew how much better theyd look if they got a haircut from Pascal, theyd save so much money on face-lifts.Of course it will cost you: A haircut with Bensimon costs $225 for women and $125 for men, with $65 to $75 more for a blow-dry, depending on the length of your hair.Bensimon was concerned with the low numbers of clients he had at first, but realized he liked being more exclusive, and having just seven to 10 clients each day. Still, Bensimon admits it is difficult to build a business from scratch in Aspen, even though he made guest appearances at Lather before relocating to Aspen.Its very hard to develop a reputation to prove that youre right, and that you are the best, he said. But as I often say to people, You dont know how bad your hairdresser was before.Naomi Havlens e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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