Beauty shops bring in bucks despite economy
No matter how bad the economy is, people want to look good.
That’s given a boost to Fresno-area beauty entrepreneurs, who are opening hair salons and beauty shops even as some of Fresno’s full-service salons — the ones offering sugar scrubs, massages and body wraps — have downsized or closed.
Fresno barbershop Fade Shop this year opened its fifth store. Browshapes, an eyebrow threading business, grew from two mall kiosks to five locations in Fresno and Visalia over the last three years. And Kaying’s Beauty Salon opened its fourth shop and second beauty supply store in Fresno County.
“There are a lot of people who may want to cut down on clothes or whatever they spend money on, like vacation,” said Saaniya Kwatra, whose family owns Browshapes. “But they don’t want to start looking ugly.”
While numbers of new openings are hard to come by, business experts and commercial real estate brokers say they’ve seen an increased interest in opening beauty businesses. Part of the reason: low startup costs and the potential for growth.
There are few, if any, full-service salons opening or looking for retail space these days, said Doug Cords, a broker with Commercial Retail Associates in Fresno. But low-priced hair cutters are looking for space, he said.
“Typically, when there’s a new shopping center, you get a no-appointment hair cutter,” Cords said. “As long as the price-point is right, people are still getting their hair cut. That’s probably why you’re seeing growth.”
State data seem to back that up: Since 2008, the number of barbers licenses issued by the state has increased 43%.
For shop owners, demand and the desire to reach customers in almost every neighborhood have fueled their expansion.
Fade Shop owner Alex De La Mora spent the last eight years developing a brand with his barbershops. His goal: to be the best barbershop in town and franchise his business throughout the central San Joaquin Valley.
The 31-year-old, who graduated from Fresno State in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, wasn’t planning on opening a barbershop.
“My dad was a barber and he wanted me to go to barber school as a backup plan,” De La Mora said. “I went to Fresno State to study marketing, but I started to get a big following cutting hair.”
De La Mora saved the money he made cutting hair alongside his father and opened his first store, called Colima’s Fade Shop, in 2004 at Cedar and Shields avenue. He expanded a year later to Manchester Center while taking classes at Fresno State.
The business had its challenges. His barbers walked out on him a couple times. And when the economy weakened, so did business as clients waited longer between hair cuts.
But in the last two years, things perked up and De La Mora expanded to Pinedale and most recently to Sierra Vista Mall. Hip-hop and rap music play inside the small shop where a projector screen hangs in front of a wall so customers can watch football and basketball games on weekends.
The barbershop, known for its mechanic’s tool chests and traditional red, white and blue barbershop colors, has attracted a following of young men waiting for faux hawk hair cuts and urban style designs — stars or sports team logos and designs cut into the hair. Hair cuts start at $16.
Ahmad Diab has been getting his hair faded into a faux hawk at the Manchester shop for a year and a half. De La Mora’s newest shop in Clovis is just two blocks away from his home.
“They’re professional and it’s a pleasurable experience, that’s why I like coming here,” Diab said. “The first time they cut my hair it looked nice, so I don’t mind coming back and paying money to look good.”
Barbershops are making a comeback as owners look to create a “man cave,” where men can enjoy coming in for cuts and shaves, said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
“They’re making it as much a social experience as a retail experience,” Heimerich said.
Hair salons aren’t the only ones growing.
Kwatra’s family business, Browshapes, is growing thanks to women who are willing to spend $10 to $12 to remove unwanted facial hair.
Browshapes started out in 2009 in mall kiosks at Manchester Center, Sierra Vista Mall and on the Fulton Mall.
The idea was to start in the malls and introduce people to the Indian art, which uses a cotton thread to naturally remove unwanted facial hair, Kwatra said.
It took some time for people to understand threading, but it has become a popular hair removal method, said Kwatra, who graduated this summer with her masters degree in business from Herguan University in Sunnyvale.
In the last two years, the family has added two storefront locations at River Park and Mary’s Vineyard Shopping Center in Visalia.
“We’re trying to target populations in other locations because people want to go to places that are more visible and convenient for them,” Kwatra said.
Rich Mostert, assistant director of the Central Valley Business Incubator/Small Business Development Center in Fresno, said beauty businesses haven’t been exempt from the sour economy. The industry isn’t booming, he said — it’s just shrinking less than other businesses.
“Have they been hit as a result of the economy?” he asked. “I bet you they have, but there are certain things like hair care, certainly clothing items, health-related items that people do wait until the last minute to cut from their budget.”
By BoNhia Lee