Big Fish, Small Pond

The planned community of Foster City, CA, lies 25 miles south of San Francisco on the Peninsula. Officially incorporated in 1971, the city was the brainchild of developer T. Jack Foster, who transformed an area of former marshlands edging the San Francisco Bay into a thriving community with residential housing, businesses, schools and parks. What sets Foster City apart from the many other organized developments sprouting up around the country are the 218 acres of lagoon waterways that weave through the city, as well as its nautically themed architecture and street names, like Schooner and Swordfish.

Terry DeMarco opened his salon, Barberia, in Foster City in 1978, in a shopping complex backing onto the lagoon. "I had worked in San Francisco and realized there were a lot of challenges in opening a salon there, like the limited parking," he says. "I thought I'd have a better shot at doing what I wanted down on the Peninsula, and since Foster City was a new community, I figured, well, we'll grow together." Barberia has certainly grown from its original 750-square-foot space, now occupying a 2,300-square-foot area. DeMarco accomplished the expansion by incorporating neighboring retail spaces as they became available over the years.

Barberia has become a local favorite, winning the title of "Best Salon" for the past two years in a local newspaper, the San Mateo County Times, and even garnering national attention with mentions in Vogue and Allure. But DeMarco maintains that there are plenty of places nearby to get a good haircut. "The hairdressers who work in this area set a very high standard," he says. "What differentiates us is the way we treat our customers." DeMarco insists that his employees become familiar with every client who comes into the salon and always call them by their name. In addition, he provides extras like tea, espresso and water spiked with fresh berries, lemons or cucumbers.

The salon offers haircuts, hair color and makeup applications using Aveda products, which are sold in the retail space. In addition, DeMarco offers his own product line, custom-formulated for him by a private-label company. "I really like that Aveda's products are all naturally sourced, and I've been particularly happy with the hair color," he says. "I developed a few of my own products to fill in the gaps, based on my customers' needs. For example, I have a cream called Thick-It that gives hair a little more weight and body, and another product called Curly Cream, which brings wavy hair back to life without any stiffness or greasiness."

DeMarco's son Terry, Jr. has recently joined him in running the salon and is interested in making it even more prominent on the Peninsula. "It's great that he's interested in the business," he says, "and I won't even have to change the name on the door."