Age is just a number to Wesley Poole, who likes to wear “cool” clothes and keep up with the trends. Some people stop by his salon, the Wesley International Salon in Skokie, IL., just to get a high‐ five and see what he’s wearing, “Wow, look at what Mr. Wesley is wearing today!” he hears from his stylists and clients. “You’ve got to keep yourself up,” says Wesley. “I shave every day, start working by ten in the morning and work to five in the evening. I work four to five heads a day.”
He offers his loyal clientele a mix of old school styling with new stuff‐‐‐“No fancy stuff,” he adds. “I tell my stylists not to worry so much about putting the latest style on every client. Worry about finding out what the client really wants and give them exactly that, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe the client is happy with just a little ‘old do,’ and if that’s what she wants, that’s what you do. Put your ego aside.”
He began working as a barber in Detroit after attending the Virginia Farrell Beauty School in Ferndale, Mi. “Then in 1980, I come to find out that the real money was in women’s hairdressing, so I moved to Chicago to study with Pivot Point,” says Wesley. His stint in Chicago with Pivot Point on Howard Street was during what many define as its heyday. When he first arrived in Chicago, he recalls staying at a nearby hotel to get to know his way around the city. He soon took to Pivot Point techniques like a fish to water, often assisting Leo Passage (1936‐ 2011), founder and CEO, with shows and educational events.
When people compliment his excellent people skills and customer service, he explains his golden rule of professionalism, “If you love yourself, you automatically love your clients,” says Wesley. His presence and goodwill for everyone connected to his salon is the glue that holds together the lease‐chair salon he has owned for twenty‐five years in Skokie, IL. Wesley always believed in chair rental for himself and his staff, “I was renting chairs way before it was popular,” he recalls.
When not working on a client, Wesley practices servant leadership by cleaning, doing towels, and sweeping hair for his stylists. No job is above or beneath Wesley, and the salon team respects him for it by keeping the place spotless for the veteran salon owner, “They come and go as they please, everyone has a key, and when I go home, they take care of the place and lock it up,” says Wesley beaming with pride.
Wesley’s clients are life‐timers. He’s been with them through thick and thin, comforting them since childhood, “I have a doctor who’s been coming to see me for more than thirty years.” Some clients move away but remain fiercely loyal to Wesley, “Old clients will come into town and call the salon just to ask if I am still around to come in and say hello or get a service,” he chuckles, “They say, ‘Nobody can do my hair as you do.”
His advice on hiring staff is priceless, “I like hiring people with a track record of responsibly, like caring for a family or their kids,” he says, “people who value responsibility get results because they have a good idea of how hard it is to build something. They have a higher respect for work and their clients. They also tend to guide younger stylists well.”
How to stay young forever? Wesley wants you always to look your best and keep up your image. “Don’t let yourself go. Get up and get ready every day. Look your best,” he quips cheerfully. Wesley has a captivating presence, we scheduled a thirty‐minute phone call, and one hour later, we were still on the phone, laughing.
Wesley, a senior star stylist and icon in his community, symbolizes professionalism and dedication to the craft of making people look and feel their best. I salute you, Wesley, and wish you and your team continued success and happiness.
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Carlos Valenzuela is a bilingual raconteur, success coach, ex‐salon & beauty school owner, author of the award‐winning novella, Letters to Young Carlos, about a gay boy’s struggles growing up along the US/Mexico border in the 60s. Visit his writings at carlos‐valenzuela.com
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