Style & Shopping

Winning Streaks

We came, we saw, we conquered—and wrote this Baltimore beauty bible while our nails were still drying!

“People are realizing that taking care of yourself is no longer a
luxury,” says Christine Cochrum of Federal Hill’s Apothecary Wellness.
“Taking care of yourself is a necessity.”

And that, in a nutshell, is why the beauty business is still thriving
in Baltimore (despite this little recession that maybe you’ve heard
of?). Whether you’re updating your look for a job interview or just
giving yourself a much-needed break, there’s nothing like a salon visit
to revive and rejuvenate. So, to help you sort out the scene, we combed
Baltimore and beyond, rooting out the top spots for cut, color, coffee
body wraps, gold facials, and more. We found tiny boutique shops and
sprawling medi-centers; places where no boys are allowed and guy-centric
havens. We even found a place where a tween can get a super-cool
manicure. And through it all, we stuck to our rule of the day: One
should never, ever feel guilty about a little indulgence.


About Faces Day Spa & Salon
1501 S. Clinton
Street, 3rd Floor, 410-675-0099: About Faces celebrated its 39th
anniversary last October, the equivalent of an eternity in the salon
world. With five locations and a total of 50,000 square feet of skin
care, body treatment rooms, and massage beds, About Faces gets bigger
and better every year. How does it do it? By staying on top of the
trends, hiring expert personnel, and emphasizing continuing education
(with industry gurus such as Oribe Canales, whose clients include
Jennifer Lopez and Blake Lively). Star staffers include 39-year veteran
aesthetician Mona Lindblom and stylist Paul Skotarczak, a former monk
who brings out the inner and outer beauty in everyone. The menu of
services is as long and satisfying to read as a Charles Dickens novel,
with a Darphin chamomile and honey soothing facial, Lomi Lomi and Zero
Balancing massage, green coffee body wraps, raindrop therapy, and
Kerastase treatments. It’s a real page turner!

Giuseppe’s Hair Studio and Spa
2616 Taylor
Avenue, 410-665-4490: Have you gotten a great cut in Baltimore lately?
Odds are, you should thank Giuseppe Castellano, who trained many of the
top stylists in town, including Lluminaire Salon’s Dean Krapf and Mario
Rentuma. Having styled generations of Baltimoreans from his homey
Parkville salon, Giuseppe treats everyone like family. It’s no
coincidence, perhaps, that nearly everyone who works in the salon is
family—niece Melina is a hairdresser, daughter Pasqua gives a
chip-defying manicure, stepdaughter Gina takes care of skin treatments
and massage, and wife Arne also handles hair. While Giuseppe has
officially been cutting and coloring for 38 years (and still retains
many of his original customers), he got his first gig as a shampoo boy
at the tender age of 11 in his native Bari, Italy. Says Castellano, “I
knew I wanted to do this at a young age, because I always cared so much
about how my own hair looked.”

Lluminaire Salon
15 W. Allegheny Avenue, Towson,
410-583-1500: Dean Krapf and Mario Rentuma could easily have swollen
heads considering the ones they’ve tended to—Portia de Rossi, Daniel
Craig, Nicole Kidman, Benjamin Bratt, and Nicolas Cage, just to name a
few. But that’s never the case. Every time we enter this stunning
space—with its platinum-painted walls, ultra-suede seating, and
old-Hollywood-style glamour—we are made to feel as though we’re the ones
getting the red-carpet treatment. (Longtime manager and receptionist
Wanda Butta sets the tone as the perfect hostess.) To avert hair
tragedies, Krapf and Rentuma are happy to do free consultations,
ensuring a sexy cut and radiant color that suits you (and not the Vogue
model whose photo you randomly ripped out of a magazine). An added
off-the-menu bonus: When prompted, Krapf and Rentuma gladly dole out
invaluable head-to-toe tips on makeup and wardrobe for a whole new you.
One caveat: If you’re lucky enough to get your foot in the door, book
smart and make your next few appointments in advance. We’re pretty sure
that’s how Nicole Kidman got in.

Studio 1612
1501 Sulgrave Avenue, 410-664-3010:
Ask anyone in the know what salon deserves top nods, and even people who
go elsewhere will mention Studio 1612. That’s because, in addition to
peerless customer service (Dale Carnegie could have taken a few tips
from them), owners Karen Bialozynski and Judy Weidel are committed to
delivering the very best in hair services at a price that’s surprisingly
affordable ($55 for Karen, $57 for Judy). While so many salons have
strayed far from the business of tending to hair (Botox, tooth whitening
. . . what’s next? baby deliveries?), 1612 and its expert team of 30
stylists has never lost its mane mission. They love to cut hair and they
love their customers—and it shows.

Uno, the Salon
10751 Falls Road, 410-821-9080: No
matter how hard we try to spread the love, we always come back to Uno,
the Salon, where owner Uno Tuluoglu and his team of talented stylists
(including Katya Brunshteyn, who is unparalleled for Brazilian
straightening) are singularly focused on getting you gorgeous. From
contemporary to classic, the emphasis is on cut and color here, though
the manicures and pedicures are first rate and a cute boutique with
Pylones brushes and barrettes can quell your retail cravings. Whether
it’s Uno’s Turkish purr, the abundance of evil eye talismans to keep
hair disasters at bay, or the ultra-professional staff to cater to your
every whim (if you need a caffeine fix, staffers are happy to make a
complimentary cappuccino run to the nearby Stone Mill Bakery), the salon
always leaves us feeling fabulous. (Bonus! Students receive a 20
percent discount on any hair service.)


dk salon & spa
5701 Newbury Street,
410-377-4300: While dk salon & spa is not exactly new to the salon
scape (owner Denise Klicos has been in the biz for more than 30 years),
dk reinvented itself in July 2008 when it moved from Lake Falls Village
to new, luxe Mt. Washington digs. No expense was spared on this Rita St.
Clair Associates-designed space, which features Thassos marble, warm
woods, and contemporary orange upholstery. Plus, dk is the only salon in
Mt. Washington’s “village” with valet. (No small perk when you consider
most meters last the length of a hair wash.) But the more things
change, the more they stay the same. While many of dk’s staffers are new
(Russian nail vet Raisa Kolker gives one of the best “manis” on the
planet), you can still count on the team to carefully consider your bone
structure and hair type with every cut and color job. Kevin Rock, who
has been with dk for more than a decade, is particularly known for his
high-wattage color work.

K. Co Design Salon & Day Spa
6080 Falls Road,
410-377-7727: What we find most refreshing about this freshman salon is
the friendly, let-your-hair down atmosphere, where the walls are
adorned with pics of the staff’s cute four-legged friends and clients
stop by just to show off their new babies. But make no mistake, K. Co is
the place to go for punk-rock panache, classic cuts, and cutting-edge
treatments (K. Co is one of the few salons in the area that offers the
Coppola treatment, a new straightening and defrizzing technique), as
well as exclusive products such as the Red Bee creamy honey facial scrub
mask. The expert staff includes two of Charm City’s top color
artists—Kenny Saenz, who also grooms (and owns) Westminster-winning
longhaired Chihuahuas, and Michele Johnson, a color educator for
Alfaparf, who airbrushes motorcycles in her off hours. Stylists James
Machniak (WBAL-TV’s Marianne Banister is a client) and Vanessa Vale (who
helps keep Fox45’s Jennifer Gilbert in the news) are also at the top of
everyone’s list.

NV Salon Collective
861 W. 36th Street,
410-467-1754: Owner Nikki Verdecchia, whose trademark cuts tend toward
classic with a kick, has been quietly making a name for herself for the
past 18 years. Before she opened NV Salon Collective last August, she
was the artistic director for About Faces and a stylist at Roland Park’s
Balance. Verdecchia also has some major styling “cred” on her
resume—she did Sissy Spacek’s color on the set of Tuck Everlasting and
is the exclusive stylist for burlesque beauty Trixie Little. Now that
she’s branching out on her own, she’s keeping it admirably simple—you
can count on NV Salon for technically excellent haircuts and a friendly,
down-to-earth atmosphere.

3401 Keswick Road, 410-243-1717: Padma is
set on the site of the former laundromat in John Waters’s cult classic
Pecker, and though the soapsuds are long gone, this Hampden salon (whose
name is the Sanskrit word for lotus, which translates to “new
beginning”) is still the place to go for a great wash and dry. If you’re
looking for the type of unpretentious salon where you don’t have to get
dolled before your cut and no one cares if you curl up on the cushy
sofa or kick your feet up on the wood coffee table, padma is for you.
With six stylists on staff (three of whom recently defected from
Corbin’s salon), padma specializes in hair services—trims, highlights,
perms, and relaxers—and is the kind of salon guys like, too. (Actor John
Astin and Gertrude’s John Shields are padma loyalists.)

Privé Salon + Spa at Silo Point
1200 Steuart
Street C-1A, 443-388-8170: There’s nothing like going to a salon full of
young, sexy staffers in a hip industrial setting to inspire us to
update our look. Owners Johnna Sychuk (a ringer for Heather Locklear’s
younger self) and Jennifer Beck (equally blonde and beautiful) trained
with the legendary Chas before making a go of it on their own last June.
The focus here is on hair services—cuts, color, highlights, and
state-of-the-art straightening and scalp treatments—plus a constellation
of facials and body treatments. (The salon’s flawless-faux airbrush
tanning would have George Hamilton salivating.) And since we’re all
pressed for time, the 30-minute express services (including a $50 facial
or the $55 hot stone massage) seem like an inspired lunch-hour idea.
The buzz is that WBAL-TV’s Mindy Basara and Melissa Carlson get
camera-ready here.


The Corbin Salon
1422 Clarkview Road, First
Floor, 410-494-8888: While in some circles he is known as “the bad boy
of beauty” (his old business cards read: “I get done by Corbin,” for
instance), there is no denying that Corbin Grinage is a Baltimore
institution, and that his salon is the place where women who could go
absolutely anywhere flock for face-framing cuts and impossibly current
color. Corbin, who trained at the famed Vidal Sassoon in London (the
Harvard of hair schools), recently moved from The Colonnade to sleek new
digs in Bare Hills, and the aesthetic—like his haircuts—is classic
modern. For more than 30 years, Corbin has coiffed about 5,000 heads a
year. (We don’t have our calculators handy, but that’s a lot of hair.)
The secret to his success is surprisingly simple: “I do it by giving one
good haircut at a time.”

Dreadz N’ Headz
1826 Woodlawn Drive, Suite 2,
410-298-0660: Even on a Monday—an off-day when most salons are empty or
closed, Malaika-Tamu Cooper’s Dreadz N’ Headz in the Gywnn Oak section
of Baltimore bustles with business. Black or white, young or old, if
you’re contemplating dreads, Cooper, who won the Golden Scissors Awards
for Natural Hair Care Specialist of the Year (2002, 2003, 2004), is the
“Lady of the Loc.” While she’s not one to braid and tell, Cooper has
counted as her clients Wyclef Jean, former Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. She
currently tends to the dreads of Los Angeles Dodgers’ slugger Manny
Ramirez. While much of what she knows comes from being self-taught,
Cooper has also studied with the best in the business including author
Pamela Ferrell and industry innovator Ademola Mandella. She has also
traveled widely to such places as London, Paris, the French West Indies,
and Tunisia to teach her art. “Your hair,” she believes, “is your
crowning glory.”

salon laurie & company
5910 Falls Road,
410-464-1500: There’s a good reason salon laurie was voted as one of the
Top 200 fastest growing businesses in North America by Salon Today
magazine (2008 and 2009) and saw a 32 percent increase in business this
past year in the midst of a major economic downturn. Owner Laurie
Schroeder and her 23 staffers are great at what they do. And what
exactly do they do? Just about everything, including signature color
jobs, Saving Face peels, state-of-the-art paraffin infusions, wig work
by the famed Lola Jones, and one of the dreamiest treatments we’ve found
in the area—the salon laurie Signature Spa Experience (in which a
massage therapist kneads your arms and legs while an aesthetician
steams, cleans, masks, and moisturizes during the facial). If budget is
an issue, no need to go to an in-and-out chop shop: Tuesdays are
workshop days when assistant stylists (under the tutelage of Schroeder
and other senior stylists) cut hair on the floor for as little as $15.

Scene 217
217 Albemarle Street, 410-244-0647: The
salon business can be as tangled as a web of knotted hair. Salons hire
apprentices only to see them leave a few years later and open their own
places—often across the street! At Scene 217, kudos to Debbie Ingrao,
who has never forgotten her roots and will gladly sing the praises of
Studio 1612 in Mt. Washington, where she got her start. Of course,
Ingrao and her staff can give you expert cut and color (from daring to
demure) as well as updos and makeup application, but what really sets
the salon apart is the stuff not mentioned on the menu. Ingrao, who
lives in Little Italy with her husband Richard and her two cute kids,
has become her ‘hood’s unofficial beauty cheerleader, and her salon
offers book clubs (“Beauty and the Books”), restaurant recommendations,
and complimentary “Ladies’ Night Out” events filled with quick-fix
makeover tips and free consultations by beauty insiders. It’s no wonder
that this is where WJZ-TV ladies Mary Bubala Smith and Kelly McPherson
come to let down their hair.


The Beatnik Barbershop
241 W. Read Street,
410-669-3033: For guys who don’t dig the whole metrosexual thing, head
to The Beatnik Barbershop in historic Mt. Vernon for a shaggy chic or
clean-cut corporate cut, a straight-razor shave, a cup of joe, and
throwback prices ($16 a shear). We love the cool, retro vibe here (think
barbershop pole, hunter green leather, and chrome circa-1960s chairs)
plus the local artwork on the walls and The New York Times sports
section strewn about. Don’t even bother making an appointment—they take
only walk-ins and, yes, a “Y” chromosome is pretty much mandatory.

FX Studios
11270 Pepper Road, Hunt Valley,
410-771-1500: While FX does have some female clientele, with its private
styling studios, movies in continuous rotation on 16-foot screens
(Duplicity and The Fast and the Furious were recent offerings),
flat-screen TVs, “Wi-Fi” hot spot, leather screening chairs, and
complimentary beer and wine, FX clearly caters to guys. Unlike many
salons and spas that relegate men’s services to a simple haircut or a
shave, FX has a separate men’s menu with anti-aging treatments for the
scalp, precision haircuts (including a quickie express cut if you’re on
the go), raindrop therapy, organic back treatments, and a full range of
waxing services including neck, chest, and even men’s Brazilian waxing.
(Payback is hell, guys!) Free neck and sideburn trims between haircuts
(and bang trimming for women) are a perk for regular customers.

Quinntessential Gentleman
31 S. Calvert Street,
410-685-SHAVE: For men who want a place to call their own that’s not a
strip-mall franchise or a so-called unisex salon that secretly caters to
women, Quinntessential Gentleman is just what the doctor ordered. In
the heart of downtown Baltimore’s financial district, QG caters to T.
Rowe Price and Legg Mason executive-types, but plenty of men drive in
from the ‘burbs for a straight razor or hot lather shave, a hot-towel
facial, a shoeshine, or a game of billiards. This spot is also a great
place to buy the man in your life a classy gift: The front of the shop
has an extensive retail space filled with imported cigars, upscale
grooming products, and sophisticated, one-of-a-kind accessories, such as
silk mallard duck neckties, compass cuff links, and ivory and
silver-tip badger shaving brushes.


Alpha Studio
817 S. Bond Street, 410-327-1300:
For those who believe green is good (and want only the best organic
products for their hair, skin, and body), Alpha Studio, open seven days a
week, is one of the only exclusive Aveda concept salons in Baltimore.
While so many hair salons smell like a hazmat zone, Alpha Studio is a
celebration of lavender, geranium, and peppermint. What’s more, the
cheerful presence of Lepke, a lab/Weimeraner mix, immediately lowers our
stress level. Husband-and-wife stylists Reuben Kroiz and Jill Sell have
built a reputation for state-of-the-art services and have cultivated a
unique following that includes everyone from Hopkins-types and downtown
professionals to the Ace of Cakes’s crew. Even more impressive, the pair
recently worked New York’s Fashion Week for designers Christian
Siriano, Ports 1961, and Karen Sabag.

Apothecary Wellness
1301 Light Street,
443-540-4022: If we ever left Baltimore (heaven forbid!), it’s quite
possibly the facials and custom massages at Federal Hill’s Apothecary
Wellness that we’d miss the most. What impresses us even more than the
bamboo and organic cotton sheets and towels is the fact that owners
Rachel Costello (a licensed massage therapist) and Christine Cochrum (a
clinical nutritionist, massage therapist, and aesthetician) customize
each and every treatment. No two facials are alike! And you actually see
real results from their Alpha Hydroxy Acid Fruit Pulp Treatment or Hot
Stone Massage. All this Zen perfection does come with a price, but to
help make a visit more affordable, Apothecary Wellness also offers a
new, cost-saving “membership program.” (Enjoy two 60-minute massages for
$130 a month, for instance, and membership also entitles you to 10
percent off any additional service and five percent off retail
products). By appointment only.

Sprout: An Organic Salon
925 W. 36th Street,
410-235-2269: With its reclaimed materials cabinetry, chemical-free
Aubrey hair-care products, energy-efficient lights, and commitment to
recycling everything from lunch to locks of hair, Sprout couldn’t be a
stronger shade of green. And while kindness to Mother Earth is
admirable, this three-year-old salon (voted one of the “Top 100 Salons
in the United States” by Elle magazine in 2009) wouldn’t be so
successful without delivering consistent, quality haircuts ranging from
classic to kicky. One of our favorite Sprout staples? The bliss-inducing
deep-scalp essential oil massage that comes with every cut.


Dreamers Salon & Day Spa
226 Main Street,
Reisterstown, 410-833-9999: From the fairy-themed murals to the couple’s
massage room with its soaring crystal chandelier, Dreamers is
Baltimore’s best escape that doesn’t involve a travel agent. “We are all
about creating fantasy and illusion,” says owner Susan Feinberg, who
hugs each of her customers as they walk in the door. “We want our
customers to feel like they are not in the world outside.” Open for 13
years in Reisterstown’s quaint historic area, and set inside two
neighboring Victorian homes, Dreamers is for those who want an intimate,
personalized experience rarely found in a spa/salon with so many
services. (Swedish massage, acupuncture, and cut and color are all on
the menu.) And we simply can’t say enough good things about aesthetician
Katie Devlin, who has a developed a fiercely loyal following for her
outstanding facials. Her clients worship her so completely that she has
some standing appointments through 2014!

Mt. Washington Spa
1600 Kelly Avenue,
410-664-3400: The Belgrade-born Vesna Stojanovic—owner of Mt. Washington
Spa—is part cosmetologist, part chemist, and part miracle worker. (If
there was a Guinness World Records category for speedy Brazilians, Vesna
would win it.) Stojanovic is best known for her aromatherapy facials
with essential oils that permeate the skin and seem to turn back the
hands of time. In addition to high-end, unique spa services (24-karat
gold facials, cellulite treatments, caviar or chocolate wraps), Mt.
Washington also offers great hair care (in-demand stylist Quentin Harris
dolled up the Sex & the City ladies as a one-time set stylist). And
for anyone who insists on a New York haircut and doesn’t care about
price, a team of stylists from Manhattan’s famed Frederic Fekkai &
Company descend on Mt. Washington Spa once a month to cut and color.
Cuts are $150 a head and color ranges from $200 to $325. Cue the line
about you being worth it.

Renaissance Salon & Spa
11121 York Road,
Cockeysville, 410-527-1175 (with a second location in Frederick): At
24,000 square feet, with 14 treatment rooms, extensive retail space, a
designated men’s barbering area, medi-spa services with Restalyn, Botox,
and Latisse (for lash lengthening), and a spa menu that could easily
take several hours to read, Renaissance Salon & Spa can literally
cater to your every need. (We love the special occasion massage that is
followed by a meal on Vera Wang china.) Still, for all the hundreds of
services on the books, we like the fact that you can come in for a
simple manicure or sauna. And guys like it, too. We’re told WBAL-TV
meteorologist Tom Tasselmyer unwinds here.

Spa Santé
1429 Aliceanna Street, 410-534-0009:
Before you make an appointment with your shrink or head to the
dermatologist, book an appointment at Spa Santé (which means “health” in
French). Be it back pain (try the Weekend Warrior deep-tissue/Swedish
massage), breakouts (the organic anti-acne or oxygen infusion facials),
or bad hair (hair pioneer Chas Kuhn partnered with Santé founder Elaine
Rogers two years ago and now runs the salon), Spa Santé can cure what
ails you. The “nail bar,” where you can get a complimentary glass of
wine while having your nails buffed and polished to perfection, will
also add to your overall well-being.

Studio 921 Salon & Medi Day Spa
921 E. Fort
Avenue, Suite 108, 410-783-SPAS: Nestled in the industrial-chic Historic
Foundry building, Studio 921 is where buddhas, bamboo candle holders,
comfy slippers, and oversized chairs come together to create spa bliss.
If there is a spa treatment or hair service available somewhere in the
cosmos (think Japanese straightening, enzyme facials, or Thai massage),
you will find it here. Insiders know it’s never too soon to book a
massage with Rosalinda Herranz, who so wowed Ravens defensive tackle
Justin Bannan with her tough but tender touch, she now gives him weekly
massages. Other area VIPS love it here, too: Under Armour founder Kevin
Plank and writer Laura Lippman are clients, and Journey guitarist Neal
Schon was the most recent celebrity sighting.


Carmen’s Barber Shop
1532 Liberty Rd.,
410-552-3375: If you’re looking for a no-frills, family-friendly place
that gets the job done with a minimum of pomp and circumstance (snip and
sayonara in under 30 minutes), Carmen’s Barber Shop in Eldersburg is
for you. The prices at Carmen’s—voted Best Barber Shop by The Carroll
County Times in 2009—are ridiculously retro (kids cuts are $11 on
Tuesdays; men’s cuts are always $13), and Carmen Trimboli, who recently
sold the shop but still works as a stylist, has decorated the joint with
his nifty collection of hundreds of die-cast cars from Chevys to
Cadillacs. When getting a haircut is almost as much fun as watching
Thomas the Tank Engine, you know something is right.

Salon 36 Kids
1496 Reisterstown Rd., Suite 219,
410-580-KIDS: For parents, it’s always a Kodak moment when Junior gets
shorn—but let’s face it, most kids would rather do extra math homework.
One visit to Salon 36, with its Crayola-colored décor, train sets, and
gumball machine, and your moppet will be booking their own appointments.
Salon 36 has many of the same services adult salons offer—cuts, color,
blowout, flat ironing, even eyebrow waxing (!). And multitasking moms
and dads can save time in their day by booking an appointment here, too.


Hudson & Fouquet Salon
181 West Street,
Annapolis, 410-263-9790: Yes, it’s a bit of a schlep to the state
capital to get a haircut, but trust us when we say that a trip to Hudson
& Fouquet is well worth the mileage. The vibe here is metropolitan
minimalist, in a friendly, small-town setting. This salon, voted “Best
of Annapolis” by What’s Up Annapolis Magazine (2007, 2008) and one of
the Top 200 Salons by Salon Today magazine, is known for delivering
simple, classic glamour (co-owner Matt Hudson’s forte) and more
avant-garde cuts (co-owner Luc Fouquet’s specialty) as well as the
latest trends in treatment (Keratin and Kerastase, Balayage
highlighting, cellular water facials). Hudson and Fouquet pride
themselves on hospitality (e-mailing you after every service to ensure
customer satisfaction) and are great at giving you a style you can
actually replicate at home. As if that’s not enough, Hudson &
Fouquet has an extensive retail space adjacent to the salon stocked with
high-end products and its own line of sprays and pomades.

The Pearl Modern Spa and Boutique
8171 Maple Lawn
Boulevard, Fulton, 301-776-6948: If heaven were a programmable place on
your navigation system, it would lead you directly to The Pearl, where
walls of water, mesmerizing images of koi swimming in continuous loop on
plasma TVs, and essence of Icelandic moonflower intermingle to create
an environment of total tranquility. Valentine’s Day news flash! This
spa has the best couples rooms in town, with romantic Jacuzzi tubs, dual
massage tables that convert into pedicure chairs, and iPod docking
stations. The Blue Grotto for do-it-yourself mud treatments is another
spa must. Whatever you crave—be it a Vitamin C facial, a Japanese foot
massage, or a guava-and-coconut wrap—you will find it in this
Fulton-area spa that is so extensive it should have its own zip code.

Robert Andrew Salon & Spa
1328 Main Chapel
Way, Gambrills, 410-721-3533: Bigger may not always be better, but at
Robert Andrew— which measures 22,000 square feet and is one of the
largest salons and spas on the East Coast—big is definitely beautiful.
While some spas and salons sacrifice service for size, the level of
attentiveness here is outstanding. If you can’t find it here—from Reiki
massage and Vichy showers to eyebrow threading (Nasreen Bakhsh gets high
marks for her high arches), hot stone pedicures, and a “facial bar”
with to-die-for express seaweed facials—it simply doesn’t exist. Robert
Andrew has earned bragging rights on several fronts—it’s the official
salon and spa for both the Ravens’ and the Washington Redskins’
cheerleaders, and barber Derek Williams is entertainer Wayne Brady’s
personal stylist. We’re not the only ones who think Robert Andrew is
deserving—this place has won almost every industry award imaginable from
“Top 200 Salons” by Salon Today magazine to “Salon of the Year” by
Modern Salon.

Big Wigs

A salon owner is Helping women with cancer feel better about themselves—one wig at a time.

Five years ago, when Kendra Darnell was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast
cancer, she was panicked about the prospect of losing her hair from the
“I was scared to death I was going to lose my hair and
not have my wig in time,” says Darnell, who now mentors other women as a
volunteer through SOS (Survivors Offering Support) at Anne Arundel
Medical Center. “One of my daughters was graduating from high school the
year I was diagnosed, and the other one was a year younger. It was
really important to me to wear a wig. They knew what was going on, but I
didn’t want to see it in their faces every day.”
Darnell turned to
Sherri Romm at Versacchi Studios in Owings Mills to help her fashion a
wig that would look like her own head of short, blonde hair. “The wig
was so great, a lot of people didn’t even know I was wearing one,” says
Darnell. “Sherri helped me get through a difficult time—she was one of
my angels.”
For 16 years now, Romm has been a guardian angel to
thousands of women experiencing a similar trauma. She first got into the
business when a friend lost her beautiful mane of auburn hair to
chemotherapy treatments.
“My friend found this acrylic wig that
looked horrendous,” recalls Romm, who had no experience in the beauty
industry at the time. “It made her look 20 years older and wasn’t even
close to her style, so I said, ‘Let me try to create a wig for you.'”
the time, Romm was a computer engineer. And while she had no experience
with wig making, she did have an M.F.A. in painting from MICA and an
artist’s eye for color, texture, and form. “My only exposure to wigs at
that point was that my mom had an entire closet of colored wigs and
falls in the ’60s,” says Romm with a laugh. “I was also always amazed at
how beautiful my mother looked at the drop of a hat—the wigs
transformed her. That’s what we do here.”
After familiarizing herself
with the manufacturers who produced handmade hair goods, Romm wrote up
her first wig order for her friend. When the wig came back six weeks
later, Romm knew that the experience had been transformative—not just
for her friend, but for her as well.
“I did not cut hair at the
time,” says Romm, who now designs the wigs herself. “So I had to use the
services of a stylist from another salon who cut the wig for her. When
he showed her what she looked like, she was elated. That was the moment I
said, ‘This is the coolest thing that anyone could be doing with their
More than a decade later, Romm, who went on to earn a
cosmetology degree in 2002, has become a pioneer in the wig industry,
helping not only cancer patients but people who suffer from alopecia and
other forms of hair loss due to radiation, burns, or trauma. Her
wigs—costing between $1,300 and $1,800—are made of human hair and were
among the first in the country to be custom-blended, hand-colored, and
completely customized.
“My wigs put a whole new spin on hair
replacement,” says Romm. “I’m not saying that a wig is the same as your
hair, but when people don’t know that it’s a wig, they don’t treat you
any differently, and that’s what cancer patients want—they want
During wig fittings, Romm encourages her clients to bring
their own music as well as friends. Some clients even choose to have
“wig parties” as they go through fittings in one of Versacchi’s private
rooms. (About 60 percent of Versacchi clients come for wigs, but she
also offers standard cut-and-color services.)
“A lot of women just
want to take control,” says Romm. “They don’t have control over anything
else in their lives, so the hair becomes a center point, and I am very
open to whatever they want to experience.”
While customer
satisfaction runs high, Romm says she and her stylists get back so much
more than they give. “All of my stylists say they wake up every day with
a sense of purpose,” says Romm. “There is nothing more gratifying then
taking somebody who is a mess and just getting them through that ring of
fear so they can focus on getting better. As a salon, we are small, but
we are mighty.”