Big Fish, Small Pond

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Patrick McIvor did his homework before opening his salon in Bethlehem, PA, which lies in the center of the state's Lehigh Valley region. Smaller than Allentown but larger than Easton, Bethlehem is the Lehigh Valley's second most populated city. According to McIvor, Bethlehem is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, not counting major metropolitan cities like Las Vegas or Denver. Still, it's fairly close to New York City, where McIvor worked at Cutler Salon for a number of years. In fact, each month one member of his staff goes into Manhattan to work on a photo shoot with Cutler's Giovanni Guintoli, an editorial stylist who trains other hairdressers how to have their work photographed so it will be more likely to get published.

 The styling area exudes big city sophistication.
The styling area exudes big city sophistication.

"I think the biggest mistake people make is thinking that the quality of work in a big city is better," says McIvor, "but it's really the PR that's better. It's easier to be the best in a small town. In the city, everyone's always looking for the next big thing so you can be here today and gone tomorrow."

Clients can watch their haircolor being formulated at the Redken Lab.
Clients can watch their haircolor being formulated at the Redken Lab.

McIvor also thinks that a lot of salon owners in small towns underestimate their clientele. "They don't think that they'll appreciate the same things that more sophisticated clients appreciate, but we're in a celebrity-driven society. Everyone wants to be a star no matter where they live. Young girls are bringing the same photos of Lindsay Lohan into my salon that they're bringing into salons in New York."

The departmentalized salon has a Redken Lab, which sets it apart from other salons in Bethlehem. "You're mixing up haircolor right in front of your guests so they can see what's going on," says McIvor. "It creates the type of environment you see on a makeover show, where they actually show someone mixing the color, then applying it."

McIvor, who is not only a Redken artist but also the artistic director for Product Club—the company is making a line of Patrick McIvor Color Studio tools as we speak—carries both Redken and Cutler products. A DVD of all the fashion shows Redken participated in during Olympus Fashion Week in New York play on two flat-screen TVs in his retail units. While the departmentalized salon offers haircuts, it puts the focus squarely on haircolor, and McIvor has done his best to make sure that his clients leave the salon looking like they walked out of Harper's Bazaar. "Everything's included in the service—a complimentary paraffin treatment for the hands, a color glaze, even finishing services like a blow-out or styling," he says. Not coincidentally, McIvor's demographic is women between the ages of 28 and 55, which happens to be the magazine's demographic as well.

A complimentary signature drink of pomegranate juice, ice, seltzer water and a twist of lime is high in antioxidants, which just happen to be good for preserving haircolor. It also fits in nicely with the salon's color scheme, which is white with a saturated dark red shade on one wall. The color is repeated on the curtains in the changing rooms and even on the company's logo.

Bethlehem may not be the big city, but it offers something McIvor could never duplicate in Manhattan: 106 parking spaces, and they're absolutely free. —M.D.