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Joli Beauty Bar – LOST GEM

Joli Beauty Bar – LOST GEM

44 East 1st Street
New York, NY 10003

What is most striking about Joli Beauty Bar is the atmosphere. Cursive print outside subtly alerts passersby to the elegance of the space. The interior is intimate, simple, white, and crisply clean, lined with brightly-lit mirrors, shelves of neatly arranged hair and makeup products, and a modest refreshment station in the back. It feels like a sleek, upscale, and comfortable place to be. Zsuzsi Evans, Joli’s owner and founder, and Chardé, the lead stylist, assured me that such an atmosphere is precisely what they strive for.

“I say people trust aesthetic more than anything,” laughed Zsuzsi. “This woman once came in and she had never had her hair done here before. But she was like, ‘I trust you. Your window is beautiful.’”

Zsuzsi has always been a creative person, but she is not a hairstyling veteran: She has a degree in fashion design. Before founding Joli, she worked in visual merchandising on the corporate level. Here, however, she began to sense that customers were moving away from retail. “There used to be this whole thing where ‘girls love to shop,’” she explained. “I do not know a single girl who loves to shop anymore. People are going on trips now. People are booking experiences. I would much rather go to a play for my birthday or see a concert.” And as consumerism ebbed, so too did the demand for visual merchandising services. “It is less about big, extravagant, expensive window displays now,” Zsuzsi said. “It is really whittled down to the bare bones.”

Zsuzsi sought out a more up-and-coming industry where she could still be creative. Slated to grow twenty percent in the next fifteen years, beauty was a perfect match. “It is not going anywhere,” said Zsuzsi. “Women are always going to want to look beautiful.” Along came Joli Beauty Bar in the fall of 2015, a finishing salon emphasizing the client experience.

Chardé, on the other hand, was born into the beauty scene. “My mom was a makeup artist,” she recalled. “She would be like, ‘You need to wear makeup, you need to put this on.’” Fittingly, she took her first job at Mac at eighteen (“I just walked in there one day and was like, ‘Hey, can I get a job?’”), before entering the Paul Mitchell Hair School at twenty years old, where she discovered her love of hairstyling.

Navigating employment opportunities was difficult for Chardé after hair school, because she was unable to find a salon that allowed her to follow both of her passions. “They would make me choose. They would always ask ‘What do you like better, hair or makeup?’” she said. “But I love both equally. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I don’t want to just do your hair and then send you off to another person to do your makeup, because they won’t get the look I was going for.” But Chardé was in luck: She met Zsuzsi while both were working at Bloomingdales. Once she heard about Joli, with its individualized and experience-centered model, she was determined to become a part of it. “I was like, ‘I can do hair and makeup here? I am going to work here.’ So I stalked Zsuzsi until it happened.”

I walked into Joli fully expecting to see a menu of standard hair services and their prices, in keeping with the usual salon features. No such menu was to be found. As it turns out, instead of a menu, new Joli customers are shown a Pinterest board of pictures, from which they can choose from a wide variety of “looks” for their hair and makeup. “Often people can’t describe what they really want until they see it in front of them,” Zsuzsi commented. Chardé added, “People who are used to getting blowouts usually know how to describe exactly what they want, but when we show them the Pinterest board, they will totally change their minds. They’ll be like, ‘Oh, can I get that instead?’”

In line with Joli’s personalized flair, Chardé believes in customizing service and devoting time to an individual’s needs, whatever those may be. “One thing I always take with me is that every woman you do is a ‘Sex and the City’ character.” She expanded, “Miranda is the quick person, the ‘In and out.’ Carrie is the one who knows exactly what she wants. Samantha only wants the latest trends. Charlotte is the one who is very conservative and wants to look good, but doesn’t want to look like she has a whole bunch of makeup on.” Chardé makes sure to teach Joli’s stylists how to read clients, and how best to meet the needs of each “type”.

In addition to the service, Zsuzsi and her colleagues aim to provide an open space for women to socialize and network while they prepare for their big events. “When the salon was first conceptualized,” Zsuzsi reflected, “it had nothing to do with beauty. It was a meeting place where women went to gossip, trade recipes, and get fitted for new clothes.” In contrast with other salons in the area, Joli strives to be more of a relaxed environment, with more of a social aura. As its name suggests, Joli combines the traditional finishing salon (Joli’s official designation) with the less formal atmosphere of a bar. Clients are encouraged to come with friends, are seated next to each other, and are served drinks while they receive their services (non-alcoholic in the morning, wine later on). Appointment slots are long to accommodate extra conversation time and minimize pre-appointment wait.

“We had one of our best clients come here Saturday morning with two of her girlfriends,” Zsuzsi recalled. “They had a bridal shower to go to, so they got their hair done, and they were gossiping about who’s gonna be there and who almost canceled but didn’t. New York apartments are way too small for that. That is the kind of environment we want to cultivate.” Joli also hosts monthly events (“VIP Mixers”) to bring clients and their friends together, and is rent-able for receptions and parties. It is the social atmosphere, Zsuzsi postulated, as much as the service, that retains Joli’s client base.

Zsuzsi and Chardé have their eye on expansion – but not too much. At the moment, they are looking to expand the experiential aspect of Joli that sets it apart from other salons. They are planning monthly “VIP Mixers” where clients can mingle, and introduce their friends to the salon. They also plan on starting a blog with skin care and hair care tips. “It’s going to make my job a lot easier,” Chardé laughed. Joli customers can also look forward to booking their appointments on a new app and perhaps even summoning the Joli team to their home or office for extra-intimate service – “Joli-to-go,” as Chardé dubbed it.