Oas his hairdressing career began in a mall salon at the age of 16, Sergio Morales’ epiphany that led, almost 30 years later, to his low-key second-floor lair in Montrose began by an article in W Magazine. It described Madonna’s dislike of her favorite stylist’s bustling hair salon. Avoiding the melee of the living room, she followed him up to the third floor for more privacy, even if it meant washing her hair in the kitchen sink.
“It spoke to me at the time,” Morales says as we sit down at an antique table in the back of his living room, tucked above Paulie’s on Westheimer. “I want to do this,” I said. I want it to be really private. . . That’s why not having a sign really worked for us because there won’t be a ton of people here.
Some might say that Morales took this notion to the extreme. The lounge, Volume Social Club, has no sign. Only a lavender door reveals the art-filled staircase entrance to the living room where Morales and co-owner Xandro Canales hold court with a social Brahmin crowd.
“We run it like a pop-up restaurant in New York,” jokes Morales. “It’s like 1834 Westheimer with the lavender door. Reservations 100% required.”
The stylist’s journey from Visible Changes in First Colony Mall to her own salon began at Urban Retreat, which at the time was the pinnacle of pampering for leading Houston ladies. The in-house chef, valets, bevy of services and gilded gift bar rattled the 18-year-old’s sensibilities.
“A chef, you’re kidding,” he recalls. The year was 1999, the same year Urban Retreat sold $3 million in Christmas gift cards, and Morales was hired as an assistant to none other than uber stylist Ceron.
There couldn’t have been a better upbringing for Morales.
Go to the school of Céron
It was Ceron who had to explain to the uninitiated teenage stylist that the scars he saw around the hairline and behind clients’ ears weren’t some sort of cult ritual but signs of a facelift. It was also Ceron who introduced Morales to the delights of client management, such as preventing two antagonistic blondes from being in the salon at the same time.
Once the young man had his wings, he left Houston for two years to work in New York. Upon Morales’ return, he joined Therapy Hair Studio, working with owners David Bamford and Luis Perez.
“These kids made me want to do more. They work hard. They play hard,” Morales says. “And they like to spend money.”
In 2014, he joined Ceron, working for six years at the Uptown Park site and expanding his customer base.
“I love Ceron Hair Studio but I knew it was time for a change,” he explains. “I love the guy and I loved working there. But it was time to go.
And when it was time to go, he fell back on this concept born years ago.
“I started at Visible Changes when salon malls were really cool. Then it got into big day spas. Then it went into hair studios,” Morales explains. “And I sincerely believe that the future of beauty becomes more private.”
Benefits of Volume Social Club
He and Canales opened Volume Social Club in March 2020, which meant an almost immediate closure due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Last June was the first full month of activity. As Morales suspected, the salon’s intimacy, while not small, has attracted female and male customers who prefer intimacy and serenity to buzz.
“We run it like a pop-up restaurant in New York. It’s like 1834 Westheimer with the lavender door. Reservations 100% required.” — hairstylist/owner Sergio Morales
“Honestly, I feel like I’m doing a better job here,” Morales said. “There’s no pressure to earn respect by the money you bring to the table. I can slow down and just focus on the art of what we do. It definitely worked for us.