While the down-turn in the economy has been a hardship on many, it has also inspired people to step up to unexpected opportunities.
Such is the situation with Anna Hollander, the owner of Anna’s Hair Gallery on 9th Ave & Irving Street in San Francisco’s Sunset District.
When the former owner of the hair salon, Paul Lee of Paul’s Celtic Cutters was having difficulties back in 2008, Hollander took over the responsibilities, “that was just temporarily to help him out,” she said. But when Lee was not able to continue, Hollander knew she had to do something to save the shop.
Beauticians, stylists and hair cutters are little individually owned businesses. They must pay the rent for “the chair” or station they work from. Managing a hair salon requires dedication and many hours.
Hollander is no stranger to hard work. Even though she has lived in San Francisco for most of her life, since the age of 10, she is a world traveler.
Hollander was born in Eastern Europe when most of that region was controlled by Russia, then referred to as the USSR. Her parents moved frequently eager to find better opportunities. “We lived in Poland, Russia, various parts of Europe and then went to live in Israel for a while,” she said.
Yet when the opportunity came along to move to America, her parents were eager and thankful. “Many people in this country do not know how fortunate they are,” said Hollander. The opportunities and freedoms Americans have are really unique, unlike any other place in the world. This is why Hollander feels so blessed to be in one of the most wonderful places in the world.
“I like my work. It was either being a hair-dresser or becoming a nurse,” she said. Hollander considers helping people very important and what can be more helpful than styling hair? “It gives me the chance to be creative and when a customer is happy, that makes me happy,” she said.
Hollander like many who have traveled the world and understand the importance of following opportunities is accustomed to taking risks and changing roles. For many hair salons it is not uncommon for a hairstylist to become a salon owner and or salon owner to sell the shop and just work as a stylist paying rent for the chair.
For example, Laura Roytman used to be the former owner Paul Lee’s boss. That was when he worked at The Hair Loft on Irving at 7th Avenue back in the early 1990’s.
Roytman owned and managed the Hair Loft for many years. And, when Lee left to open his own shop on 9th Ave, Roytman eventually joined Lee after selling her shop, which she owned for over 15 years.
Hollander joined Paul’s Celtic Cutters shortly after he opened in 1996. She had been working at the Beauty Sunset shop on Irving Street selling cosmetics and hair care products for several years when the owner retired and closed down.
“I was fortunate to find work here, renting a chair with Paul. I love this area,” she said.
And, when Roytman joined Paul’s salon it really felt like home. Roytman and Hollander work well together in the shop as both speak several languages. Like Hollander, she also has traveled the world. They often chat in Russian.
So when Hollander realized that Lee was not coming back, she did not want to have to go looking for another location. “This shop here on 9th Ave has lots of foot-traffic and good energy, a really nice neighborhood,” she said.
Hollander pulled resources together and refurbished the hair cutting place that had been in Lee’s hands for more than a decade. As much as Hollander encouraged Lee to return, he declined. Critical and sudden life-changes made it difficult for him to continue.
Hollander then instinctively knew that she would have to take-over the shop and nurture it under her direction. “I was a little bit uneasy at first, but once I got going I knew I was doing the right thing,” said Hollander.
A new coat of paint in softer hues, a new motif with logo and in about two-year’s time, Anna’s Hair Gallery is busy as ever, especially since Hollander began to provide the “Brazilian Blowout” treatment now very popular.
“Customers love it,” she said.
But the new “Brazilian Blowout” embraced by celebrities as a hair treatment has been under some serious scrutiny by Oregon Health & Science University.
Responding to concerns about the ingredients in the hair products used to create the stylish look, the university did some toxicology research.
The study was conducted when Portland, Oregon hair salons raised concerns. The university’s Center for Research on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology found that on average “Brazilian Blowout” hair treatment products contain formaldehyde.
Some statistics estimate that approximately 6 billion pounds of formaldehyde are produced each year.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature with a characteristic pungent odor. When dissolved in water, formaldehyde is present as methylene glycol.
A saturated water solution containing about 40% formaldehyde by volume is called "formalin.” Formaldehyde is commonly used as a disinfectant.
Dr. Michael DiBartolomeis, of the California Department of Public Health noted that,
“The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that workers and consumers avoid contact with formaldehyde-containing products," he said in a prepared statement provided to the press.
Yet as Hollander points out, “this hair-straightening and smoothing treatment is only used every three to six months or so.”
The treatments are expensive starting at $175.00 to as high as over $500. “Some customers the treatment can last even longer than six months. It all depends upon the individual’s hair-texture and how they manage their hair,” said Hollander.
She then pointed to the line of special shampoos and conditioners that help maintain the treatment. She advises clients who have the treatment done, not to blow dry hair too much or too often.
Obviously, Hollander takes certain precautions that have been established and recommended. But for each customer wanting to have this latest craze done to their hair, she counsels them, and evaluates the condition of the hair, discerning the best approach.
This treatment can be done with products that do not contain any formaldehyde in them. Hollander provides customers with the options.
Regarding the non-fromaldehyde versions, "in general and, specifically, we also advise avoiding contact with keratin-based hair smoothing treatments unless it has been clearly demonstrated that these products are free of formaldehyde or chemicals that produce formaldehyde," said DiBartolomeis.
Apparently, some keratin-based products do contain trace amounts of formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is a strong irritant to the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and lungs. It can produce allergic reactions such as asthma and skin allergy.
Also according to The California Department of Public Health, formaldehyde has been shown to decrease fertility and increase the risk of miscarriage in humans.
In laboratory animals, formaldehyde can harm the developing fetus and damage sperm. Formaldehyde is also widely accepted as a chemical known to cause cancer in humans.
In June 2011, both the National Toxicology Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. It has been listed under Proposition 65 as a carcinogen since January 1, 1988.
Hollander understands the potential risks in the products and takes all the required and necessary precautions.
But as she said, “if the Brazilian Blowout is discontinued because the FDA or whomever decides it is not safe, then we will stop offering it,” said Hollander. “But, customers say they like it, it makes hair soft, shiny and manageable,” said Hollander.
“I am here to help the customer,” she said. And, Hollander noted, “I have had no complaints." "In fact, customers who have the Brazilian Blowout treatment done, they come back to me," she said.
She noted that the popular treatment is gaining even more popularity with people of all backgrounds. And, yes, “even men are getting this treatment done, and they love it,” Hollander said.
“I like making people happy and think about it, said Hollander, all people, both women as well as men are sensitive about how their hair is styled or cut.”
“And, when their hair looks good, they feel good,” said Hollander. “In fact, one customer was so pleased with her hair style (and it was a “Brazilian Blowout” treatment) that she said to me, ‘this is better than sex,’” said Hollander.