Ryan Chartrand

Finding a quality, affordable hair salon in downtown San Luis Obispo is like dating: It seems there are prospects around every corner but it’s just too overwhelming to sort through them all. Who’s got the time or the money to do that?

To save you the valuable resources it would take to date every salon in town, I visited 10 shops in downtown San Luis Obispo to give readers some intelligent groundwork.

Although men can benefit from reputable boutique salons, the search was geared toward women’s stylists and cut prices. However, for the men out there who enjoy aromatic candles and cushy waiting areas, this may be an article for you.

So here it is, my afternoon of speed-dating, numerically organized, with some of the swankiest and most eccentric salons in town.

1. The oldest salon in town, The Bladerunner Salon and Day Spa at 894 Monterey St., was extremely hospitable.

I was greeted by edgy music contrasted by warm lighting. The salon has an elegant, relaxed style with huge mirrors and artsy plants lining its long design. Coffee and tea are available in the waiting area by the window, and as I walked in I was immediately welcomed by the receptionist.

The Bladerunner offers massages, facials and waxing – in fact, they have a separate wing dedicated to spa services. It features Asian-

inspired décor and a sanctuary-like atmosphere that is comfortably removed from the rest of the salon.

A simple cut will set you back

between $40 and $70. The salon sells its products as well as a makeup line.

2. Next, I went to Salon LUX at 1040 Court St. – just as a Labrador walked out with its owner.

I suppose the salon is rather pet-friendly inside; it’s relatively stark and the floors are cement. LUX has an industrial décor; the hairdryers hang from the ceiling futuristically. Bamboo adds some color, and there’s modern art and techno music. The lighting is kind of unflattering and harsh, but “warm” doesn’t seem like what the shop is going for. I felt a little hurried in Salon LUX; it had a very big-city feeling.

LUX is an Aveda concept salon, which means they carry all Aveda products (which are known for being environmentally friendly). The stylists use a system called “head mapping” which means they section hair during coloring in a way that minimizes use of environment-damaging color. A cut, depending on the stylist, will run between $35 and $60.

3. At the Thomas Everett Salon and Tom-Mel Beauty Center (next to Kinko’s at 1119 Chorro St.) I was pleasantly surprised. From the outside it looks kind of outdated and tacky. However, once past the stark retail section, the salon inside has a funky, trendy feel.

This salon carries almost every mainstream product line, making it the largest beauty supply store in town. They have been around for

17 years, and the salon has two aestheticians who offer facials, nail services and waxing. The atmosphere was friendly, with Indian music playing and a wacky couch in the center of the room. Cuts start at $40.

4. Shift Hair and Beauty Salon was probably the swankiest shop I visited. It’s located at 1050 Broad St. and has a modern feel. When I walked in, I noticed how noisy it was; everyone was laughing and chatting with their stylists, all of whom were with clients. Snaked wire lighting lines the ceiling, and there’s clean hardwood flooring, possibly lending to the noise factor.

Shift is the only salon with a super-automatic coffee maker that individually dispenses each cup of coffee (very sophisticated!), and their product line is also high-end. They carry a Parisian line called Kerastasé that is not offered at any other salon in town. Stylists and receptionists have to undergo extensive training to learn how to use the products and sell them to clients. The downside: Kerastasé products are costly.

Halo driers also set Shift apart – they are the only salon in town that has state-of-the-art driers that rotate around the head to get an even result without as much damaging heat. A cut here will be more expensive than elsewhere – women start at $50, and walk-ins are rarely taken.

5. Tigerlily Salon has a great location on the creek behind West End Coffee at 670 Higuera St. It resembles a greenhouse inside, with expansive windows from floor to ceiling so clients can look out over the trees while they get a haircut. The salon displays local artwork on its comedy-club brick walls, and sells the exclusive Bumble and Bumble line of products, which they use on clients.

The salon is unique in its social awareness within the community – they promote fun events and even hosted a prom fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Open for just two years, they have been voted “Best Salon in San Luis Obispo” both years. The only complaint I had is the headache I got from the intensely heavy hair-product smell in the air.

6. Reveal Salon is nested behind a fountain-clad porch at 1130 Garden St. Inside is a cozy waiting area with a hand-written refreshments menu, which includes teas, coffee and wine. Co-owner Brook Jones explained that the intention of Reveal is to “help people see more of who they are, to reveal what they normally couldn’t see.”

The salon is very comfortable; the walls are bright yet soothing and there’s a lot of natural lighting. The stylists all appear edgy and chic.

The salon gets its music hand-selected by an employee at Boo Boo Records, usually playing more grassroots artists. There’s a small, sunny back patio garden where clients can sit with drinks and wait for their hair to set. Previously named Jump Salon, Reveal has been around for two-and-a-half years. A cut will start at about $40, and appointments are recommended.

7. The self-proclaimed “hair color specialist,” Changes Beauty Salon is next to Longs Drugs at 1228 Broad St. Although the atmosphere is reminiscent of the ’80s inside and out, its team has a long history in the salon business. Owner Omar Aviles owns the Institute of Beauty Culture in Pismo Beach and has been in the salon business for 45 years.

The styling team at Changes has been working together for 15 years at the Broad Street location. The

salon offers manicures and pedicures, facials and waxing. Haircuts start at $45, and it is one of the few salons with free designated parking outside.

Changes didn’t give off a very trendy feel. In fact, it seemed to cater to an older demographic.

8. Salon 544 at 544 Higuera St. is actually a renovated house, and not much has been done to change this fa‡ade. There’s a porch with rocking chairs, a screen door and walking into the waiting room is like entering someone’s living room. Women are sitting and chatting on couches and trendy-looking products line the shelves.

As I explored further into the salon, it felt more like a co-op. Every turn led me through beaded doorways to another, completely different environment. In the kitchen, stylists were washing clients’ hair. In the parlor someone was getting her color done. The facial room is a bedroom with a canopy-

laden bed that smells like essential oils, and the bathroom is very cozily decorated with pillows and plants.

Salon 544 also offers free parking, and cuts range from $35 to $45.

9. Bliss Body Spa definitely had the best aesthetic layout. At 970 Chorro St., their salon is in the front and there is a huge garden in the back where spa treatments are done in heated cabanas and sheds. They grow their own lavender and mint in the garden to make clients tea, and the receptionist will happily go out and get lunch for you while you get your treatment.

The products they carry are from the Purology Line, which has 100 percent vegan ingredients and is sulfate-free.

Many clients stay in the garden after their appointment to have

a picnic, relax and unwind. There’s a fountain and music playing – it’s a little escape from real life. The salon offers hand and foot treatments, couples massages, waxing and chair massages with a student discount. Cuts range from $45 to $50.

10. Lastly, I visited Hepkat Beauty Parlor at 781 Higuera St. next to Decades. At two-and-a-half months old, they are the newest salon of the 10 I visited. The style is retro-

inspired, edgy and filled with jukebox music. Reminiscent of a high-class ’40s salon, there’s black-and-white checkerboard tiling on the floor, white brick walls and a jukebox.

They sell sulfate-free products from the Enjoy line, an independent Southern California company that doesn’t sell its products in drug or grocery stores. The staff of stylists is perfect for the salon with retro-chic hairdos and outfits. The entire experience is like a strange step back in time. Cuts cost between $25 and $45.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello! Im Cindy, I work at Bluebird Salon, 722 Marsh st. we are next to Couch potato, and across from CVS!. I would like to invite you to visit the Salon! and add a new review to your list! while you are there, please ask for Cindy, to receive a coupon from me!

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