Remembering 9/11: Beauty Heals
Ten years ago, when the tragic events of 9/11 happened, many of our MODERN SALON Media team was doing what we still do today—busily traveling and working to cover salon industry events, trends, education.
NY-based Beauty Director Maggie Mulhern was on her way downtown to a photo shoot. SALON TODAY Editor Stacey Soble was in Los Angeles attending a spa management conference. Editorial Director Michele Musgrove was enjoying a quiet, radio-free commute from Chicago to MODERN’s suburban offices during her first week back from maternity leave.
Those were our last moments of normal before everything changed.
Yet even as our nation reeled, the professional beauty community continued to do what it has always done best: nurture, care, support, inspire.
In the October and November 2001 issues of MODERN SALON and SALON TODAY, we dedicated page after page of coverage on how our industry was responding—raising funds, helping displaced stylists, offering relief to families of police and firefighters and more.
But, as Stacey Soble noted in her November 2001 column, much of the very important work salon professionals did in response to 9/11 happened one-on-one, in their own chairs. She wrote:
“In the past six weeks, we’ve all learned much about putting our best foot forward. For you, it’s meant encouraging staff members and consoling clients—often reliving the news of the day over and over with every client who walks through your door. It’s harrowing, draining and oh-so important. The work you do on a daily basis helps comfort, heal and restore a sense of normalcy to so many lives.”
Today, 10 years later, as our entire nation recalls the anniversary of 9/11, salon professionals across America will again be reliving the event with clients and colleagues. This week, you will share memories, mourn losses, remember triumphs of spirit. You may also talk and hear about new challenges, current fears and seeds of hope.
But no matter what, you will put your best foot forward and do your best work to create beauty in the mirror, and in your clients’ day.
For this, we at MODERN and we as a nation are grateful. For this, you—beauty professionals—are heroes.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
We know every NYC salon has a story from 9/11. MODERN asked Beth Minardi, Richard Calcasola and John Allan to share their memories and how their businesses were impacted. Their stories are below. We’d love to hear yours at facebook.com/modernsalon.
I was home on the West Side of New York City when I first heard about the World Trade Center. My first thought was that my child was being driven to school by my husband, and they were unreachable by phone or any other way.
The sky outside my dining room window was gray and dark. Then I heard on the television that the Pentagon had been hit.
I thought I could run to my daughter’s school. I went outside and saw another mom from the school, so we started running together. All along West 96th Street, traffic was stopped, with people listening to radios with car doors open so everyone could hear. People were crying.
Finally, at Central Park West I saw Carmine with my daughter and another of her two friends walking. Our car had been stopped and police said it could not be moved.
On a land line, I was finally able to get through to my salon and tell my front desk team to GET OUT and CLOSE THE SALON.
We actually had two angry clients who said, "We came all the way here, so why not do my hair!" But we didn’t, of course.
Most people, however, were in shock. Many said beauty was just silly. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the end of the world. Everyone was looking for easy answers to why it had happened, and for someone to blame.
In the days and weeks that followed, several of our staff suffered panic attacks. One woman quit to move away. She was simply afraid. Constant bomb threats at Barneys across the street kept staff and clients on edge.
For months, we experienced tremendous business loss. Clients from Connecticut and New Jersey quit coming. Women who would regularly fly in from across the country and across the pond (England) were too afraid of New York City. It wasn’t money, it was fear.
But other clients clung to beauty and to their regular desire to take care of their hair.
“Several people we knew died that day. I don't think we ever forget, but we do adjust. We will never be the same confident, totally "cool" people again. Everyone goes on and hopes this never happens again and yet we all know it could. So, we take every day and try to do our best.
I will be teaching in Texas on Sunday and Monday, but my memory will be here in NYC, remembering that day when I thought the world might be ending.”
MAXIMUS SPA & SALON
“We all remember where we were that day, and we remember watching how that tragedy was impacting others—and we also remember how it impacted us personally. For a new business just opening in the downtown community, the impact was devastating. Just two weeks before 9/11, we hosted the grand opening of Maximus SoHo, which was located just 50 feet north of Canal Street.
“We had put our dreams, as well as our life savings, into that business and we were off to a phenomenal start. Shortly before 9/11 fashion writer Kathy Horyn wrote a wonderful profile about the salon in The New York Times and it generated 500 new client calls. But after 9/11, we were only able to hold onto 15 of those new clients.
“That year we also captured SALON TODAY’s Salon of the Year. We were very proud of that, it was fantastic for us and those are the good memories of that salon and the people who worked for us.
“During the days following 9/11, we stood our ground, even though there were constant bomb scares. Soon after, I remember we were doing the Maury Povich Show and we had to evacuate the building because of a scare. When we got the all-clear, no one wanted to go back in. Finally, a few of us went in with the producer and finished the show. I decided right then I was not going to let terrorism stop my life. In October of that year, we traveled to London for Salon International – we tried to keep things going as best we could.”
“Ultimately though, the impact on our SoHo business was such that we could never fully recover. After 9/11, the streets were closed, sirens were constantly blaring, and we’ll never forget the stench in the air. It was so unprecedented for America, but it started making us think about other countries that live with that daily. First the streets were closed, then the mayor was warning people not to go downtown. We tried to hold onto staff as long as we could, but we had some people who were seriously traumatized. One of our staff members was just coming off the subway as the towers were burning, and she couldn’t come back to New York—in fact she moved upstate.
“And we simply couldn’t get clients to come to a new salon and try a new experience, and after two years, we had to close our doors. Ultimately, we rented the space to a manufacturer who did some R&D work there.
The one thing we held onto during that time is that at least we didn’t have to go to any funerals – we didn’t lose any staff or clients that we knew of. And for that, we are thankful.”
JOHN ALLAN’s MEN’S CLUB SALONS
“Prior to September 11, 2001, we had only one location—and it was downtown. We were just getting ready to expand our company to midtown Manhattan, and then expand further, with more locations planned outside of New York.
“My construction date to start the Midtown location, was Sept 12th. But on 9/11, I lost everything. My club—John Allan’s club membership salon for men—was just across the street from Ground Zero.
“We lost hundreds of clients who did not survive that day, and hundreds more that moved out of the area.
“After the smoke cleared and seven months had passed, we reopened, but business was down 87 percent.
“During our down time, while under construction in midtown, my biggest concern was my team. We had an established crew out of work.
“I established a make-shift club on the 19th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel. I offered free services to any of our clients who could get there. I needed to keep my team busy and engaged, for our own sanity. Our clients did pay, and they took good care of the staff for three months.
“I received a little help from the government, but that was difficult to navigate. Anything we received, went to staff, to keep them going.
“When I reopened downtown, it was a ghost town. The staff, led by the manager Marianna Baldi, really deserve the credit. I personally did not want to return. But our members, the clients, all wanted to have their place back.
“What I learned was that John Allans was not just a hair salon, but a culture. It was not just a hair cut, but a place where guys came to relax, decompress, talk and catch up. The loyalty from both clients and staff was amazing. I could not be more proud.
“After reopening downtown, then opening our midtown location in 2012, my company has since opened in Saks Fifth Avenue, in Tribeca, in Chicago and Toronto. We have also started a products division that sells around the globe, and an educational platform that trains stylists and owners in both cutting and marketing to expand their men’s business.
Ultimately, September 11th 2001, made me strong. Coming out of that experience showed me we can do anything. It also taught me that if you believe in what you are doing, don't wait, because you never know what could happen.”