Paying It Forward: Napa Hair Salon Carrying On Tradition With New Owner | Business

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RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN

Janet “JJ” Johnson passes her beauty salon – Napa’s Hair Odyssey – to her colleague, in the same way the business passed to her from the previous owners.

Karina Gaspar officially took over the Lincoln Avenue salon on January 1.

It’s all about paying it forward, Johnson said.

A native of small-town Minnesota, Johnson had been a dance instructor and worked in the sheriff’s department’s criminal records division before taking up cosmetology as a career, she said.

“I wanted to make a move to be more independent on my own,” she said. “I was considering career options.”

Johnson said that while she used to ‘play with’ her own hair and enjoyed working on the hair of neighbors and friends, her mother would force her to give her sisters permanent waves – something that neither party liked.

“My mom was making me give my sisters perms and they were crying and it never occurred to me that it might be a career choice,” she said. “I didn’t like it at the time, and it wasn’t on my radar until I needed to make a change. So I thought if I went to school for that and I was learning to do it right, I’d rather.

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But, while her future career didn’t cross Johnson’s mind, it obviously came to someone from her high school yearbook staff, she said.

“What really upset me about my senior yearbook was that someone on the committee took the initiative to put ‘cosmetology’ under my picture as my future plans. I don’t know who it was, but they saw something that I didn’t see,” she said. “I had no direction at that time.

Here’s how it all went down, Johnson said.

“Hair Odyssey was started by four ladies in 1980, and one of them is my brother-in-law’s sister,” she said. “So one by one they were retiring, and when the last couple was getting ready to retire, they called me to see if I would be willing to take over and take care of their clients.”

However, Johnson said she had tried becoming a salon owner before and the experience was less than positive.

“So, I agonized over the decision, but it turned out to be the best decision,” she said. “They didn’t sell it to me. I took over the business and the lease. And that’s what I’m doing now with Karina. Give it back to a very deserving, capable and lovely person.

Gaspar, a 28-year-old Napa Valley native, came to Hair Odyssey straight out of cosmetology school, the two women said.

“I’ve been in the salon for eight years, but I’ve been in hairstyling since I was little,” she said. “But, never in my life did I imagine myself in this career.”

While still in high school, her talent for styling her own hair prompted many senior girls to ask her to do their own, but soon after graduating from high school, Gaspar became a mother and was attending Napa Valley College, with the goal of becoming a teacher, she said.

“I wasn’t happy, so I looked up beauty schools and I found Le Mélange Hair Academy in Napa and I called them, I did a tour, and then, you know, I applied and I was admitted,” Gaspar said.

“One day I was sitting in my room with my daughter and something told me to research beauty schools and something told me I had to, which I did with the support of my husband, my mother and my mother-in-law.”

Gaspar said being entrusted with the salon was literally a dream come true.

“Since I started doing hairdressing, I’ve dreamed of owning my own salon and I never imagined this day would come,” she said.

He almost didn’t, Gaspar said.

“In high school they offered a ROP (Regional Vocational Program) for things like cosmetology and nursing, and they sent you to Vintage Hair Academy, but I was thinking of doing it as a senior, but at that point , this program was no longer an option.

She had to pay for her own passage when the opportunity arose.

Johnson said this transition felt like it was meant to be.

“When I first took over this salon, I was bringing my own clients and (those of the) previous owners, and I was overjoyed, and telling one of the previous owners how upset I was. , at 10 p.m. and still at work, and she said, “Why don’t you call Karina, that girl from beauty school who came to see us cut our hair that time”, and I did She was like an angel She took the pressure off I couldn’t have asked for a better assistant She was amazing.

Things tend to work out for the best, Johnson said.

“We’re there and I couldn’t be happier with this whole transition,” she said. “He feels good. She really is like a girl to me and I would do anything to help her. Were very close. She started with me right after beauty school and being in a salon for so long is rare in the industry. I am happy to entrust him with this task and give him the opportunity to have a business.

Although Johnson plans to stay part-time for at least a year, working as a consultant and hairstylist, she said “she will miss the pride of ownership, but I’m so happy with the direction it’s going. I will continue to do hair, so I won’t miss my clients. I have the best of both worlds.”

She will not miss the responsibilities of ownership; to “be alone in managing the problems”.

“I encourage (Gaspar) to make this almost 40-year-old place his; to breathe new life into the salon with its youthful vibe,” Johnson said.

Gaspar said she plans to do just that, although there are no details yet.

“I don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but I want to add some of my personal touches,” she said.

But, above all, she is happy to be able to continue to make clients feel good about their appearance, she said, adding that it is the best part of her job.

“Making people feel more beautiful, bringing out their beauty, seeing their face after the service and seeing how beautiful they feel,” she said.

Not that there isn’t a downside.

“Long hours on your feet are tough,” Gaspar said. “Sometimes you don’t eat until the end of the day, and not everyone understands that all the time. And sacrifice being with your family. That’s why I’m so emotional. I used to give up family events when (my kids) were little. But everything is paid. »

Both women say they like the idea of ​​paying with the show and hope it can continue with the next generation.

“I’m so happy and grateful to have come into JJ’s life at the right time. She was my mentor and everything at the right time,” Gaspar said. “I’m so proud. From myself, the long hours worked. So happy and so proud that I finally made it, with the love and support of my family, my friends, my clients. And of course JJ, my mentor. My daughter, who is 9 years old, every time we ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she answers “a hairdresser like my mother”. If she still wants to do this when she grows up, the living room can be passed down to her like it was passed down to JJ and then to me.

Hair Odyssey is located at 1111 Lincoln Ave., Napa, 707 224-5452.

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or [email protected]

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