SALON TODAY: Over the span of 50 years, are there any lessons you’ve learned you’d like to share?
This photo of a younger Charles Penzone, circa 1975, was submitted along with his first application to join Intercoiffure. PENZONE: This industry is so different than it was when I opened my first salon in 1969. There were no chain salons then, and booth renting and independent contracting was barely being considered. But if I were opening a salon today, I would look long and hard before making a move, because I think there are some options that I didn’t have because of change, because of independent contracting, and because today manufacturers employ talented people and give them great opportunities. I would want to start young, because it takes a long time to build a brand and I would be thinking on a large scale. I would go big or go home, and if I didn’t want to go big, I’d look at independent contracting or working for a manufacturer on the platform or in research. I would look at other options. I didn’t have competition to speak of in 1969 and it was a lot easier to do what I did then. But today, I’d be more cautious about government regulation, and the impact of healthcare reform…there are so many other things today to consider.
SALON TODAY: I know a deep commitment to the community has remained very important to both you and your wife Debra. Tell us why philanthropy has been a critical component of building the Charles Penzone Salons?
Charles and Debra Penzone at a 2012 event celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the company. During this annual event, the company honors its professionals for all their accomplishments. PENZONE: It’s a very big part of our corporate culture. My wife Debra has been the president of the company for about five years and she and her team have pretty much been directing the day-to-day operations. Debra’s been with the company 25 years and started out as everyone does, as an associate and an assistant and she worked her way up through all the different levels of design work, then she was our training director and creative director. But Debra’s first role after we took her out from behind the chair was to be the corporate liaison to the Columbus community and to put back into the community what they’ve given to us. We both feel a debt of gratitude to Columbus, but we also feel that a better community makes a better business environment for everyone.
So it’s become a huge part of our corporate culture and we’re even having an awards event called “Earth Angels,” and we give medals, which are necklaces with a heart and angel’s wings, to staff members who go over and above to contribute to the community. Some of the activities we are involved in include opening up one of our Grand Salons once a year to a charitable organization that focuses on children with debilitating diseases. We are probably involved in three or four different cancer organizations and charities, and Debra’s been the Volunteer of the Year on two separate occasions. Most of our activities focus on women’s and children’s issues. I don’t think a week goes by that we’re not doing something philanthropic.