Talk to Christine Zilinski about Salon Concrete and the word “transformation” will come up often. As in, an empty space in Bell Works is undergoing a transformation into a modern, creative salon where every element, right down to the elevation of each light fixture, is designed to serve a specific purpose. But mostly she’s referring to the intensely personal – and yes, sometimes scary – experience of putting your faith in someone else’s hands to change how you look.
Salon Concrete is as much a transformation business as it is a hair-cutting business.
“If somebody with shoulder-length hair wants to come up to something that’s lip length, do you know how many people out in the world will have something to say about that?” Zilinski asked. “Their husband, their mother, their sister, their brother, their friends. Inside they want to do it, but they have trouble getting the confidence because all of those people on the outside are going to have a comment on what’s theirs.”
About a year in the making, the transformation of Zilinski’s new space is now all but complete. On Aug. 7, the owner and leader of the successful Salon Concrete in Red Bank will open the doors to her second location. And when people pass through them, they will find something unlike any other salon in the area, both in its setup and business model.
First, the physical – when you walk by the storefront window, it’s hard to miss the concrete wall inside the glass with seams torn out of it. The architect and builder behind the space, Mike Pond, designed this gateway to provoke people to notice it and then peek through the holes to find out what’s inside. The strategy was clearly effective, as evidenced by the number of people who glance inquisitively into the space as they pass.
The list of services is not only unique to the area, but to the other Salon Concrete. Clients of the Bell Works location will have the option to purchase unlimited monthly subscriptions for four services: barbering, blow drying, coloring and products.
“Especially for the building, it’s great, because if you have a meeting you can run down,” she said. “People in the building can use this as their personal styling center. They can come in any time and get touched up.”
The membership model is one of several steps Zilinski has taken to ensure that Salon Concrete is not a salon carbon copy of her Red Bank facility. For months, she has spent time in the building taking in the scene, talking to people and taking mental notes in preparation for the opening. Her instinct is that what worked in a classic American downtown setting will not necessarily work in a one-of-a-kind metroburb, so she’s trying some new things.
For example, she noticed that the demographic of the building leans male, so she’s training her Holmdel staff with a greater emphasis on cutting men’s hair. That staff will be entirely different than Red Bank’s, as she wants to foster a homegrown culture unique to Bell Works.
Zilinski had been on the lookout several years for a place that felt right for location number two. The metroburb vibe was a powerful draw, as she knew right away it was where she wanted to be.
“One of the reasons I wanted to be here is that there are so many inspiring entrepreneurs and so many people doing progressive things,” she said. “I want to be around those people.”
Among the top of her list is Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker. Zilinksi recalled a conversation she had with him around the time she signed her lease, when he congratulated her and shared his own story.
“One of the things he said was, As an entrepreneur, there are going to be a lot of naysayers. Hold your vision. Because that’s what he had to do here,” she said. “It’s so important to do that when you’re taking risks and doing things that are out of your comfort zone.”
For more on Salon Concrete and its services, visit their website atsalonconcrete.com.