Originally Published: March 25, 2014 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - John Graham knows hair. He's been styling it for almost 30 years, most recently at a franchise operation near the Gateway Mall.
Now he and his wife, Jennifer, have opened their own salon, Hair Benders, in Prescott Valley.
John's a traditionalist, and he wasn't happy with the assembly line, mechanical environment that today's national franchise hair cutters demand.
He also didn't like their move toward the "trendy."
"They've got young girls there, just out of school, with purple hair, blue hair, tattoos, earrings, all of that," he said. "I just wasn't going to do that." Prescott is, by and large, a conservative town, he added, and "I just think that's the wrong way to go."
With some encouragement from Jennifer, who looked at the numbers and said, "You know what? I think we can do this," the couple hung out a shingle on their own salon.
Customer service is the most important element to John.
"I want this to be a family place," he said. "Our style is family-oriented, bring your kids, sit down, have a cup of coffee."
"For us, this was a chance to chase our dream," Jennifer said, "and to go out and make it work." She said having John working for a franchise haircutter meant constant schedule changes, which were not conducive to raising their two young children.
"I just said, 'There's got to be a better way,'" she said.
Haircuts at Hair Benders are $13. The a la carte price structure allows clients to pick the services they want.
"I don't think anyone needs to pay $20 or $30 for a haircut," John said. "That's stupid. Why not come here and get a haircut that's going to be worth $30 but you only paid $13?"
Right now, Hair Benders has two stylist stations; John works from one and another stylist rents the other. They're hoping to add two more as business grows.
Many of the customers have followed John from his previous position, although that's mostly been from word of mouth - the other salon won't tell people where John's gone.
Business has been pretty uneven so far. "One day, I'll sit and maybe do three people, and the next day, I'm doing 19," John said, but, on the average, the salon is, so far, looking profitable.
John and Jennifer believe strongly in the principle that people shouldn't be overcharged - he actually turned down a job at a salon that charged $50 a haircut because "that was too much."
"He could have gone to other salons, but what they charge for a haircut - I couldn't pay that," Jennifer said.
John also wants to make sure his customers get the time they need. He mentions his days of "herding people like cattle," turning them in 13 minutes, and shakes his head.
"We're personal with them," Jennifer said. "It's a sense of community.
Hair Benders stocks Paul Mitchell products and they will be adding Redken and Biolage in just days.
"I'm carrying the products that I know are good but are affordable for the customers," John said.
Hair Benders, at 8535 Spouse Drive, is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call them at 533-3210.
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