Stephen Soto is proud of his Mullet. The manager and master stylist at one of Orlando's cult hairdressing destinations believes that the Mullet is hot and getting hotter, as word spreads across central Florida and maybe even the rest of the country.
Fortunately, the Mullet is just the name of the salon he runs, and not his hair style. Creating a mullet for a client is not even an option, as Soto describes his salon "sophisticated and ultra trendy."
In charge of the business since January 2007, Soto came on board to help out his cousin Abner Suarez, a real estate investor, and his partner Thomas Morin. The two had bought the salon as a business opportunity, and spent three months revamping everything about its interior and image-but decided to keep the name for its icebreaker appeal. In the salon world, it's not one you'll soon forget.
The First Cut
The inside of the salon gives off a New York art-deco vibe, says Soto, pointing out the muted palette of gray blues and red accents. But even with major design changes, the salon has kept a charm of its own with eclectic furnishings and curiosities. For his clients, it's the place to be. "We get all kinds, from teenagers to young professionals and baby boomers."
Clients of all ages are sure to appreciate the salon's commitment to education and customer service. "We're ultra technical with our services," says Soto, "and we go the extra mile to make sure the client's experience is one they'll remember."
When Soto first took control of the salon, he had to deal with the departure of the salon's only two stylists besides himself. He was forced to build his team from the ground up, and now employs a full styling staff, as well as an esthetician and massage therapist. Although trend-conscious individuals are a must for his salon, Soto digs deeper to find candidates who are truly committed to nurturing their talents.
"We look for people who are education-focused and want to continue their education and possibly teach others. If they don't want to raise the bar, I don't feel like they belong here. My main concern is making the industry and my staff the best that they can be."
Soto takes unique avenues to get his message out. For one thing, he invites current clients to hold Girls' Nights Out in the salon, where they invite friends and family to come in, hang out and sample express services-at no cost to any of them. "It works for us, because we get people in the chair and the treatment room and they get a feel for us," says Soto, adding that he learned that trick from one of his mentors.
The Mullet is also advertised in various media, and Soto garners a lot of free coverage as a platform artist at national hair shows. A PR company has gotten them plugs in publications, and Soto hopes that his latest endeavor-gathering a team of local surgeons and specialists to create their own version of "Extreme Makeover"-will also be a success.
Mullet stylists take their clients's home care seriously, prescribing products to clients, letting them sample items free, and creating a 2-for-$30 sale on Thursdays. Staffers take home a 10-percent commission on their sales.
But the loudest buzz has come from the salon's name. In fact, staffers like to mix up the pronunciation of the name, calling it "The Mull-ay," along the lines of Target's infamous moniker, "Tar-jay." "We're branding a line of products which will be pronounced The Mull-ay, so we are getting it out there for people to know the name," explains Soto. "It's all designed to create conversation."