You will find TJ Pitts in the new Sola Salon Studios in Pasadena, CA at the end of the hall, tucked away. He prefers to have his salon, The Sapphire Room, off the main hallway because he has created an intimate atmosphere and experience for his clients inside his salon space and he wants to preserve it. The vibe is vintage, the aesthetic is Old Hollywood and every guest receives the star treatment. Because he specializes in blondes, Pitts painted his salon a soft blue hue that flatters blonde hair color and complexions. Throughout the space, carefully curated pieces speak to the owner's taste and his attention to detail.
MODERN had the pleasure of visiting with TJ and talking with him about his choice to live the suite life. Already having experienced running his own salon (he had a successful operation in Riverside, CA for ten years) he feels that he has created his perfect salon home in his studio at Sola.
MS: How was the transition from salon owner and boss to solo artist?
TP: I loved my salon, Technicolor, I loved my staff and it was a great stepping stone to put me in Sola. It was a labor of love and it ran its course. We were a Paul Mitchell Focus Salon. I used to work for Robert Cromeans at his salon in San Diego and I got a phenomenal education there. Because I was used to the well-oiled machine of that salon, I opened my own in Redlands following a similar formula to Robert’s salon in Las Vegas. I’ve really come to understand my strengths and weaknesses but I’m not the best at managing people—it’s not my thing—and I always expect people to do a good job and don’t necessarily reward them for something I think they just should have done, automatically, because it is their job.
MS: What kind of person is best-suited to having their own space?
TP: You have to be a driven person and someone who likes their independence. I love what I do so much that every day I say, ‘I get to go to work today.’ I don’t have any other drive or passion—this is it. I’d never be able to work a desk job. And I love knowing that if something is used up, I used it. If the door is open, I’m open. And if I want to, I can shut the door and draw the curtains. A stylist with a suite near me does a lot of kids who can make a lot of noise and if I don’t want to hear them, I just shut my door.
MS: Do you every get lonely or miss the camraderie of the salon?
TP: I never get lonely. I’m very busy, but if I have a break, I pop up to Trader Joe’s, get a salad and come back and watch Netflix until my next appointment arrives. And had I not been an owner before, yes, I might miss the camraderie. But as an owner, you are the bad guy, whether you want to be or not. What I want now is to concentrate on the person in my chair. I take my work very seriously and what’s important to me is who I am with at the moment and the rest of the world just kind of stops.
MS: What do you love about your suite?
TP: The concept is magical for the hairdresser; you completely create your own space, your own hours, your own controlled environment. If you need to come in at midnight to do someone’s hair, you can. There were times during the holidays when I was working ten or twelve hour days I was here very late but I have that option, I can do that.
For the public, however, it can still be a little strange and they don’t always get it. My clients, though, love it.
MS: Weight-in on salon studios vs traditional salon settings
TP: Salons are never going to go away. When you are right out of school, you need that home base and you need to build-up a clientele. There will always be a need for the hair salon. I just don’t think we’re going to see people spending 20 years at the same salon, anymore.
What I get out of Sola is peace of mind. All the sometimes petty problems that come with working in a salon are gone. And success is solely up to you; you are the machine, you are running the operation.
MS: What has been the greatest advantage to being in a Sola studio?
TP: I have re-bonded with clients. I feel closer to them and I know more about them now. I had an assistant for sixteen years and I rarely shampooed because I didn’t have time. Now I do private sessions or a double-booking with people who know and like each other and I am with them from start to finish.
Some clients have told me that large salons give them social anxiety and they felt on display. Here, they feel safer, more relaxed. I’ve seen old films in which salons had separate private rooms for hair color services because, back in the day, you didn’t always admit to coloring your hair. That’s the experience you get here—private, personal, intimate and all about you.
The Sapphire Room / Studio 20 / at Sola Salon Studios
455 South Lake Ave. Suite 103 Pasadena, California 91101