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BREAKING NEWS: Ted Gibson Salon, NYC, Closing After 13 Years

Maggie Mulhern | December 20, 2016 | 3:48 PM
The Ted Gibson Salon, NYC
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Jason Backe
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Ted Gibson
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Salons open and close every day, but MODERN was a bit shocked to find this release in our inboxes today:

“New York, December 21, 2016 - After thirteen years in business the legendary Ted Gibson Salon will be closing its doors. As one of the first beauty destinations in NYC’s Flatiron district, Ted Gibson has serviced countless A-list celebrities, NYC socialites, models and business elite over the years. Although the salon is closing, owners Ted Gibson and Jason Backe have always considered it to be a small component of the overall brand.

“The last 13 years at our 5th Avenue location have been full of discoveries,” says Backe. “Our biggest discovery to date is seeing and acknowledging the rapidly changing salon industry. It’s time for our business model to change dramatically so we can continue to grow our brand with the momentum we have built.”

“We have been rethinking everything,” says Gibson. “We are entrepreneurs, we are artists and we are mentors. We are prioritizing where we need to focus the majority of our attention - the Ted Gibson Artistic Team, the Ted Gibson Advanced Academy and the STARRING product line will now get the attention they need to blossom, grow and help to elevate our industry. The evolution of the Ted Gibson Salon is exciting! I can’t wait to share with the industry and the world what that evolution will be!”

“Ted Gibson Salon’s last day of operation will be today, Wednesday, December 21st, 2016. To keep abreast of all things Ted Gibson, please follow Ted and Jason on Twitter & Instagram: Ted Gibson @tedgibson and Jason Backe @jasonbacke.”

MODERN Beauty and Fashion Director Maggie Mulhern and SALON TODAY Editor-in-Chief Stacey Soble had a conference call shortly after the announcement to better understand the big decision.

On making the decision to close the salon…

Jason Backe (JB): “About three years ago, we started having conversations about what Ted Gibson Salon is all about. It’s been a challenging year for me personally as a hairdresser. I started feeling like I was going to ‘a job’ instead of doing what I loved to do. When we opened, there was no social media, and Gen-Xers were still applying for jobs. They had a live-to-work mentality, and young kids moving to New York knew they had to get into a big-name salon.

“We were open for six years before we had our first walkout, then we had one four years later, then another two years later and one back in September. 

“There was a shift in our thinking after the September walkout. While we were devastated by the walkout, we were being fulfilled by many exciting things that were happening at the same time. In our third audition for our artistic team, we had 30 people fly in from all over the country at their own expense and put themselves up at hotels for audition process. Then we performed at Intercoiffure and got a standing ovation. Afterward, we were told by so many how grateful they were for what we do.

“It all really made us think. Who are we in the industry, who do we want to be and how do we want to do it? We are all about education, elevating our industry, the Ted Gibson artistic team, theTed Gibson Academy and our product line, Starring. The smallest piece of our business, the salon, was taking up all of our time, energy and money. That exploration made us question our model. With social media, new artists do not need a big-name salon or brand backing them. Our salon model is not inspiring to millennials. If we don’t change, we become dinosaurs. We’re not inspired to do this anymore.”

Ted Gibson (TG): “When we opened in the Flat Iron district 13 years ago, there were no other salons in the area. There wasn’t even a Starbucks. We thought our 12-chair salon was boutique. We wanted to do something different. We didn’t want to be a big chain salon. We were always about a curated experience with elevated service. This worked for 10 years. Now, clients are looking for something more curated, something a little more special. Especially the luxury client, who wants something a little more personalized. Our salon, which had grown to 18 chairs, is now too large for what we want to do.”

On rent in NYC...

JB: “While it played a factor, it’s not the reason why we made this decision. We started at $11,000 per month and now pay $20,000 in rent per month. That’s challenging to maintain when new staff members think two years is too long to commit. We could keep plugging along, but we feel that is not going to get us where we want to go.”

On what it was like when Gibson and Backe announced their decision to their team this morning:

TG: “Lots of tears, but when we told them the truth about why we are closing, they all understood. We play above the board, and we’ve thought hard about their careers and places to send them. We gave them their client lists, and we’re already getting calls from salon owners interested in bringing someone on board. We’re going to help place them if they want our help.”

On the salon model in our changing industry…

TG: “The whole thing about changing our model is that it’s not working anymore. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. We have a gorilla on our back keeping us from producing. We have—I guess now had—two managers, five front-desk people, housekeepers, laundry service, a publicist, 16 chairs—it’s a behemoth.  The guest is wanting something different. We opened the 5th Avenue address 13 years ago because we needed that address. We don’t need that anymore. We are looking at new spaces and new neighborhoods, and we’re thinking about the salon model differently. Our celebrity and editorial work is continuing, and the salon piece will come back in a different way that will know people’s socks off.”

JB: “Instagram and social media have leveled the playing field, and we are all adjusting. Millennials work differently. I know we are not alone in addressing these issues.” 

On what other salon owners and stylists should think about their decision…

TG: “We can’t say it enough: Times are changing. You have to move with the times. Beauty schools are closing. Stylists are seeing independent options. All the regulations and laws! Hairdressers should continue if they are in the environment that allows them to succeed. The thing I hear over and over is that people working alone become uninspired. Be in an environment that pushes you.” 

JB: “It’s serious stuff. Salon owners should start evaluating and recognize that things change. We identified our core. We are education-driven, we deliver a luxury client experience, and we only participate in experiences that elevate the industry. That will remain the same, but everything around it can change. Salon owners should realize that everything can change, so that they must stay modern and successful. We are all reevaluating our business. We are all talking about the same thing—how to make sure the environment is conducive to the millennial.”

On their message to hairdressers… 

TG: “If you’re not inspired, think about finding the place where you will be inspired. If you are hungry for something new, you must keep on top of education. Surround yourself with people who expect more from you.” 

On their message to salon owners:

JB: “Now is the time to stop, look and listen. Know what is going on. It’s a changing world. And if they need coaching through it, I’m for hire.”

On the rumor that they are opening a space for solo artists in their existing salon…

JB: “What? Wow. That’s news to me, and I will say it’s neither true or false. We have zero experience working with independent hairdressers. This is a time for radical change for us. We’re not saying no, but we’re not saying yes. We have 9 years left on lease. We have a clause to get out but are now in a holding pattern. That’s part of the risk, but the risk is worth the struggle. We aren’t sure what’s going to happen. We are hoping and trusting.”

On what they can say about what’s next:

TG: “In our re-invention, we are looking at new neighborhoods. We are pioneers and changing focus. My celeb and editorial work will continue. The salon will come back, but in a different way.”

JB: “Our first thing is all about education, and we want to continue as always to do things above the board. Our salon owner friends are making lovely offers. We might be guesting at their salons. Ted’s career in reality is not salon-based. He’s either on set, on location or in a private home. In the past, he’s had to say no to a lot of jobs because of the salon. I can see myself guesting at other salons. We aren’t in a big rush to get this done tomorrow. We are still doing stage work, running the advanced academy and team, are booked at four trade shows and working on Starring.  I’m continuing my work with L’Oreal Professionnel as a brand ambassador.”

In closing… 

TG: “We are excited to see what is the next chapter. We do not want to be dinosaurs. We need time to regroup and figure out what we want to be. The salon is not closing us. We are making a change.”

JB: “I was listening to an Indigo Girls song recently, and there was a lyric in it: ‘The sweetest part is acting after making the decision.’ That is where we are today.”

Originally posted on Modern Salon.

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