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The Napa Know-How
Leilani Slack, Bloom Creative Hair Design
When Leilani Slack took over a friend's salon on Napa's Main Street eight years ago, the perfect name came to her: Bloom. With its evocation of metamorphosis and transformation—two things that a good salon should do very well—bloom captured perfectly the positive, artistic spirit of Slack's popular salon and art gallery.
"I love working with people and seeing the transformation," explains Slack. "When they come in, they might not be in the best mood or might not be feeling the best about themselves, but doing something so simple as trimming their bangs or shampooing their hair can bring them so much."
Considering Slack's knack with scissors, it might come as a surprise to discover that the Napa native originally wanted to be an architect. But during a break from school, cosmetology school beckoned, and it was there that Slack discovered a passion for hair. "I loved it so much, there's no way that I would choose to be in another field," she says.
Twelve stylists—trained in current styles and cuts, in addition to color and keratin treatments—now work at the salon. The vibe is more artsy than chic; in fact, the rose-colored walls of the salon serve as a gallery to showcase the work of young local artists.
"It's not a typical upper-class salon where it's sterile," says Slack about the vintage feel of the space. "I feel like we're more down-to-earth. People feel really comfortable here, but it is up with the times, it's not old-fashioned. It's not a beauty parlor."
Slack's community involvement extends beyond the salon walls. This weekend, she's looking forward to her 12th annual volunteer gig at a grad night for Napa seniors, setting up a booth where kids can get wacky hairstyles to show off to their friends. "We do fun, crazy hair styles," says Slack. "We make the guys hair spiky or Mohawked—stuff that you would never be able to do in any other situation. It's a fun night."
Color services: starting at $65 —Leilani Clark
Bloom Creative Hair Design and Art Gallery, 1146 Main St., Napa. 707.251.8468.
Drea Kobus, Essence Hair Studio
One might think all salons are cut from the same cloth, but take Essence Hair Studio in Rohnert Park, a salon specializing in multicultural hairstyles, such as the basic flat press and iron, sister locks, cornrows and weaves. Here, those with hair density and texture that might be considered "difficult" by other stylists find all their needs addressed, from style to cut to color.
Drea Kobus, a stylist here since April, attended cosmetology school at Lytle's Redwood Empire Beauty College. A few months back, Michelle Kitchen, who co-owns the salon with Angela Franklin, recruited Kobus to work at Essence; with so few multicultural salons in the area, they had a large clientele and needed more stylists to keep up with demand. The clients come from diverse backgrounds and races, including African-American, Latino, Puerto Rican, Samoan, Fijian and Eritrean.
"With multicultural hair, it's almost a necessity to go to the salon to get it done," says Kobus. "To make hair manageable, you're basically going to be there every two to three weeks, depending."
At Essence, the stylists know exactly how to style thick, dense and textured hair; stylist Lucy Rangel speaks fluent Spanish; and they carry a range of products, including Mixed Chicks, which bears the tagline "Tired of defining your race instead of your curls?"
"What makes Sonoma County unique is that a lot of us actually, including myself, come from very diverse backgrounds," says Kobus, whose father is white and mother is black. "You go around and nobody knows how to do your hair. I felt like we were kind of cast aside, walking around with big, fluffy, curly hair and not knowing what to do with it.
"There's a huge need for stylists in this area to do this type of hair," adds Kobus. "This population is underserved."
Basic flat press and iron: $55 —Leilani Clark
Essence Hair Studio, 1 Padre Parkway, Ste. F, Rohnert Park. 707.670.3732.
The Fifth Avenue Style
David Barnett, Brush Salon
David Barnett of Healdsburg's Brush Salon is a fourth-generation hairdresser. His U.K.-based father, great-aunt and great-great-aunt were all employed in the styling sector, and his lineage helped nudge him toward what he considers a service-oriented trade.
"My dad always talked so highly about the industry," he says. "You can meet so many amazing people and have the opportunity to get into circles you otherwise wouldn't if you weren't offering such a personal service. It opened so many so doors for me."
Those doors include New York Fashion Week, the MTV Music Awards and the 2010 Grammy awards, all of which featured Barnett's work. But following a post as the educational director at the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, he and his wife Nicole Barnett, a former National Artist for Redken 5th Avenue, decided they'd had enough of city living. After repeated weekend trips to Healdsburg, they chose the town as their new home.
"It was really sophisticated without a boutique or high-end salon; it wasn't New York—it really just ticked all the boxes for us," Barnett recalls. "We felt confident that we could build a local clientele."
The couple's strategy was to take the rigorous customer-service standards of the area's other hospitality venues—restaurants, hotels, wineries—and apply them to hair. Along with top-notch cuts, colors and 'dos, the salon offers a host of other amenities that Barnett calls "magic ingredients," like espresso and complimentary scalp massages. So far, it seems to have worked; Barnett estimates that roughly 85 percent of Brush's clientele are locals.
Since moving to Sonoma County, the couple's other goal of starting a family has been accomplished as well. Along with a 20-month old son, they welcomed a newborn daughter into the world just last week—a potential fifth-generation hairdresser.
Brush Salon, 105-C Plaza St., Healdsburg. 707.431.1400.