On the Road: Kenneth Wildes Salons

A five hour flight from Los Angeles to Boston can be way too long if you’re replaying scenes from the movie Meet the Parents in your head. Yet, there I was on the flight with my boyfriend Jason to Boston – to meet his parents for the first time. Even though his family didn’t have a cat and I don’t generally cause fire-filled explosions, I was still nervous about whether we’d all get along or whether my visit would be filled with embarrassment and regret.

Luckily, I needn’t have worried so much. His parents turned out to be two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. And, importantly for me, Jason’s mother agreed to accompany us on a salon visit in their hometown of Newton, an affluent suburb where it’s good to have an “in” at your favorite salon. In this case, we were visiting Kenneth Wildes Salons, a renowned salon in “Newton Center,” (the heart of downtown Newton), where Mrs. Solowsky regularly gets her hair done.

As we pulled up to the salon, I was already impressed with its marketing strategy. The phrase “Best of Boston 2006” was clearly visible on its exterior windows, alluding to an award received from Boston Magazine. The prominent signage was a great way to take advantage of the recognition, giving passersby a reason to stop in and pick up a menu. The impression continued inside as I noticed the employees were all impeccably dressed, most in chic black outfits. Within a few minutes, Kenny himself came over for a quick chat, then excused himself for his next hair appointment. In addition to being the owner, he’s a fully booked hairstylist at this full-service salon.

Nail tech Heather Wise took me over to one of the two manicure tables that are on the styling floor. She noted that when she first started working at the salon about a year ago, the manicure tables were in an out-of-the-way location, unfortunately “out of sight, out of mind.” After mentioning this to Kenny, the stations were moved into prominent positions, helping build the nail business and the probability of referrals between departments. There’s also a small rolling manicure table in the upstairs color room, letting Heather do manicures for clients who are waiting for their hair to finish processing. The pedicure room retains a private feel and is located downstairs with the other spa services. Instead of pedicure thrones, the salon opted for portable pedi tubs, plus comfortable “spa chairs” that are actually from a back store.

Heather loves being the only nail tech in the salon. Any time a new color collection is released, she polishes the hairstylists’ nails, generally gaining plenty of referrals for herself. Since it was toward the end of May during my visit, she was gearing up to do the stylist’s toes, hailing the arrival of pedicure season. Natural nail services are the only ones offered at the salon, a recent move implemented by a desire to lessen the odors to better match the spa atmosphere.

All in all it was a perfect trip for Jason and me – and the nail service was perfect timing. My nails were perfectly manicured for our elegant dinner at The Oak Room, a previous Best of Boston winner in its own right. Unlike the flight to Boston, my return flight was filled with chatter of happy meet-the-parents memories.

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