Hairstyles have come and gone, but Van Michael Salon has tried to provide customers a different experience for 34 years.
After opening in 1984 at 39 W. Paces Ferry Road, which remains Van Michael’s biggest and most visited location, the salon has eight locations across metro Atlanta, including the new Van Michael Men, a barbershop that opened in February at the Battery Atlanta.
“Barbershops are kind of a trend right now in beauty, similar to how blow-dry bars were the trend a few years ago,” Van Michael CEO Susan Dykstra said.
But most people recognize Van Michael by its Buckhead location, which used to cover 1,000 square feet. Today that salon stretches over 10,000 square feet and employs 375 people, 250 of whom are service providers.
“We see on average about 400 clients a day in that location, which includes 100 of our employees,” Dykstra said. “Our Buckhead location is very fast-paced, and people seem to like that.”
They like it enough to have voted Van Michael Salon first in the hair and beauty salon category of the 2018 Best of Jewish Atlanta. More than a quarter of reader votes in the category went to Van Michael.
Dykstra has worked with Van Michael for 21 years and said she has noticed several trends the past 10 years. “People are getting their hair colored much more than they are getting it cut,” she said. “Whether it’s baby boomers with gray hair or the popularity of the different trends, such as ombre, balayage and color melting, we are definitely staffing more colorists.”
Whereas before the salon was offering two cutters for every colorist, it now provides two colorists for every cutter.
What people fail to realize, Dykstra said, is how long a visit to the salon can last.
“People often come in and want the same look duplicated from Instagram or YouTube, which we can do, but the difficult thing about people seeing things online is that it does not give them an indication of how long the process takes,” she said. “Everything is sped up for people’s stories, which looks as if it took two minutes, where it really could take all day.”
In terms of cuts, people still want to wear their hair long and want the beachy waves that are created using a large curling iron, Dykstra said. “No one is going real short at this time, but Van is trying to bring that back,” she said. “He is on a mission to bring back more of a haircut instead of everybody’s hair looking similar.”
All eight of Van Michael’s locations are driven by customer service and provide a luxury experience, Dykstra said. Each salon introduces customers to their stylists and makeup artists and includes a tour for first-time visitors.
“We really want to provide everything for the client from cut, color and makeup,” she said. “Traditionally, most salons offer one person for cut, color and makeup, but we believe people should specialize in one category.”
The salon also offers facials, waxing, brow and lash tinting, false lashes, and hair extensions. Van Michael hires licensed cosmetologists after they have completed their training. The salon mostly hires stylists from the Aveda schools or Paul Mitchell, who are required to go through an additional year of training with Van Michael before they work on clients.
The new stylists go through eight hours of training each Monday and are paired with senior service providers the rest of the week. Once the interns are fully trained in cut and color, they are assigned to the salon’s new talent section or junior division.
A haircut provided by new talent costs $35, $42 or $49, and colors can cost $40 to $100, depending on whether the customer is getting full color, a partial highlight or full foil.
A haircut from a veteran Van Michael employee starts at $55 and can go to $150. Color prices start at $70 and go up to $240 for color from a senior stylist.
Van Michael offers 14 levels of stylists.
“The theory and designing of the pricing is so that anyone can go to a Van Michael Salon, regardless of their budget, but will have to select a stylist that best accommodates their specific price range,” Dykstra said. “Yet everyone is trained the same. The only difference is that people who have been at Van Michael longer and have a really strong clientele have higher prices.”
When customers leave the salon, Dykstra said, they want to feel great and change their state of emotion.
“When you have an impact on how someone looks and feels about themselves, you are really changing their life. It’s much more than a haircut, color or makeup service,” she said. “We may be the only person that physically touches that person that day, but we just want them to feel good about themselves when they leave.”
The Van Michael tagline is to experience the difference, which Dykstra said is what the salon is about. “If you have been going to a salon for a long time, you might be happy, but I would really encourage people to try us and experience the difference,” she said. “My hope and goal is that people will be blown away.”