Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Manly manicures: Salons offer services with ESPN, beer on hand

January 7, 2007

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They hang LCD televisions above urinals and offer ice-cold beer with manly manicures.

Four salons and spas have opened in Orange County in recent years and at least one more is on its way as men get savvy to masculine grooming meccas where they won't risk a run-in with anything pink or remotely froufrou.

The formula for success seems simple.

Most of these places are painted neutral creams, tans, whites or bold blacks and burgundies and use wood, stainless steel and lots of black and brown leather. They offer beer, wine, cigars, video games and a TV view from all seats.

Add beautiful women to do the clipping, tweezing and shampooing. Give him quality service and, oh, pamper the heck out of him.

"You go into other salons for a massage and you have to wade through a pile of hairdressers and curlers," said Harry Hill, a building construction supervisor from Huntington Beach.

Hill, who gets regular pedicures and massages at Profile Spa for Men in Irvine, says the multiple televisions means he never has to stray too far from ESPN.

Grooming revenue takes off

Owners within the men's grooming field agree that the market drove the need for the niche. Men's grooming products - from three-blade razors to hair balms and moisturizers - are expected to become a $10 billion industry by 2008, according to Packaged Facts, publishing division of MarketResearch.com.

At Metro for Men in Irvine, clients wait in leather chairs among stacks of Maxim, Motorcycle and Men's Vogue. A refrigerator holds Corona, Sierra Nevada and Heineken light.

"What's different?" says Krista Martin, owner of Metro for Men in Irvine. "It has a masculine feel, a country club atmosphere."

At Metro, which opened eight years ago near Irvine Spectrum, guys get waxed, trimmed and colored. They can zone out in front of an individual TV with some 700 channels at each semiprivate station.

Martin believes the reason she's able to book more than 100 clients daily is that men want a place of their own.

"Here, men don't have to share space with anyone else. They can relax and get away from it all," she says.

Away from barbershops

She says barbershops lost their universal appeal around the '90s, when men started styling their hair. Martin hires licensed cosmetologists and barbers so she can offer both trendy and classic styles.

"Men are savvy and very sophisticated," Martin says. "They know what they want to see and they demand it."

Independent research in the industry confirms that men want convenience, multiple services and privacy.

Danny McCallon felt confined, bored even, when his girlfriend dragged him to her nail salon for a pedicure a few years ago. The service was terrible and the chemical smells irked him.

"I thought, 'There's got to be a better way,"' said McCallon, who opened Profile Spa for Men six months ago.

"There wasn't a one-stop shop with enough amenities to keep me entertained," says McCallon, 30. "You know, I'm a guy; I have a short attention span."

At Profile, men walk through glass doors on the upper level of an Irvine shopping center into a crisp, white environment. There's a juice bar, tables piled with high-end jeans and button-up shirts, shoeshining services and white, lighted shelves lined with men's face and hair-care products.

McCallon, who opened the spa with his mother, Bonnie, splurged on 7 1/2-inch LCD televisions at each station along with $1,700 white Italian leather salon chairs.

"This is the fastest growing thing," Bonnie McCallon said. "Guys know it's OK to look good. They used to have to primp behind closed doors but now they don't have to."

Variety of amenities

Danny McCallon picked the amenities based on what he likes to do to relax. So he included a VIP lounge with leather recliners, wireless Internet, Xbox and a custom putting green.

Jake Carreras, who gets a massage once a week and a trim every two weeks, said he likes the fact that everything is in one location.

"I don't have to travel place to place," says Carreras, 60, a doctor from Dana Point. "I go to the VIP room, sit back there, turn my phone off and it's an escape for me."

There are even LCD televisions above urinals in the locker room.

Even the terminology is different. Manicures are called "hand details" and wispy bangs are "loose, deconstructed fronts," because, you know, it just sounds manly.

"It's an experience," Bonnie McCallon says. "The hardest thing is getting a man in the door. The next hardest thing is getting the man out."

Variety of clients

She isn't talking about getting any particular demographic of men. Owners are finding a wide range - from teenagers with mohawks to young businessmen and baby boomers - who visit regularly.

At 18 5/88, with locations in Costa Mesa and Irvine, men are offered a free beverage when they walk in the door (beer, wine, coffee, soda or water). They have the option of changing into a black smock and slippers in an upscale locker room.

Both spots are also equipped with a big "what men want" amenity. Each station is broken into a quadrant with its own shampoo bowl. That way, guys don't have to move, much less trail the stylists, from the shampoo to the salon chair with drippy hair.

While the two existing 18 5/88 locales cater to a midmarket, average guy, corporate technical director and master stylist Rob Milstead says the company plans on catering to Orange County's high end, too.

Early next summer, an elite medical spa version of 18 5/88 will open at Irvine Spectrum. The upscale version will offer laser hair removal, Botox, microderm abrasion, cocktails, and even doctor-prescribed Viagra and the hair-loss drug Propecia.

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