On a recent Tuesday morning, the Valery Joseph salon on the Upper East Side was bustling as if it were a Friday afternoon in the second quarter of 2008. Apparently, the beauty emporium’s 1044 Madison Avenue location was getting a boost from moms prepping for Visiting Day at various sleep-away camps. At least that’s what Valery Joseph’s publicist concluded — after recognizing a few patrons.
Revi and Valery Joseph, the salon’s husband-and-wife owners, are grateful for the crowds they can draw in the down economy, but they’re not entirely surprised.
“We run it to a T. We know everyone’s names. And it doesn’t matter if [the client] never worked a day in her life — she wants to get in and get out of here. She’s busy,” said Revi of her often high-society customers, which include Caroline Kennedy (she visits three times a week for a blowout), Jennifer Keil and Marjorie Gubelmann. But mostly, added Joseph, his salons (there are three) cater to moms, working women and their husbands and children.
“Some stylists like editorial. I love working in a salon. I like giving instant results and giving women that confidence they get when their hair looks good.”
While the couple is thankful for their loyal clients, this week they’re celebrating something else: The opening of a new Valery Joseph several blocks away, at 957 Park Avenue at 82nd Street. The shop is smaller than the other two (about 700 square feet versus 2,000), more intimate (exposed brick and warm tones make the six-chair salon feel like a living room) and more accommodating (the salon is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).
The business — which also includes an outpost located at 820 Madison between 68th and 69th streets, opened in 2002 — has been built like no other salon chain in the city, Revi said. There are no junior stylists (cuts start at $160; color, at $120), a receptionist will call if the salon is running more than 10 minutes late, and a haircut with the owner runs for just $250. Joseph said he styles as many as 25 to 30 clients a day.
“Hair is the most important asset a woman has. She can always have new shoes or a new dress. But hair, if it is styled, it can change your whole mood,” said Joseph.
Revi said the salon’s philosophy revolves around delivering results, not on making celebrities out of their stylists.
“At a lot of salons they have one or two gurus, and then everyone around them can’t even hold a brush. Here, no one is a star. Everyone is trained by Valery, and everyone will give you what you want,” Revi said, explaining that it doesn’t matter which location a client visits, the results will always be top notch.
Apparently, business is going well. How else to explain opening a salon that cost an estimated $250,000 to build?
“Business is growing every quarter,” said Revi, who added they look to generate $4 million this year and between $5 million and $6 million in 2010.
Joseph, who was born in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and raised in Ashdod, a suburb of Israel, got his start in hairstyling as a teen, helping out a neighbor who was a hairstylist. In high school, he studied architecture and after graduation, while still only 17, he went to work for an architect. But when he turned 18, he entered the Army, as is required in Israel, but an injury several months into his service forced Joseph to choose another path.
“They sent me to a professional [beauty] school for six months, and then I went back to a base that had mostly women to cut hair,” recalled Joseph. “It is amazing how things worked out because hairstyling was always a passion for me,” he said, hinting that he may have returned to architecture had it not been for his injury.
School, he said, gave him the tools to cut hair, but soon he began creating his own angles and structure. Execution, he said, is the easy part; finding out what a client wants is what’s difficult.
“Consultation is very important. I need to listen to the client with an open mind” to best create a cut for her, he said.
In 1995, Joseph moved to New York and began working for Upper East Side salon Henri Elfassy. After seven years, and marrying Revi, the couple decided to go it alone, and in 2001 they opened the first Valery Joseph salon. Keeping his business on the Upper East Side was important since it’s where Joseph feels most at home.
“[The Jewish community] here supported me and gave me a chance. Everyone in this neighborhood did. They made me feel comfortable.”
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