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Salon caters with customer service

March 31, 2010

by Elizabeth Corey

ALBANY, N.Y. – When walking into Fiddleheads Hair Salon, customers are greeted cheerfully by a black Scottie terrier named Jake, while a soundtrack of pop music plays in the background.

“It’s not everyday that we have Madonna’s greatest hits playing in the background, but we had a birthday party with 6-year-olds,” said owner and hairstylist Chuck Basil.  “But we serve kids to 100-year-olds and we want everyone to experience the same upscale, fun and trendy atmosphere.”

The salon, started by Basil and a business partner in 1991, made its move to the Pine Hills neighborhood this past November.  Formerly at Central Avenue and Quail Street in the Beverwyck neighborhood, Fiddleheads relocated to 861 Madison Ave. after its building was bought and turned into a parking lot.

“The neighborhood we were in before was nice when we first opened, but it went downhill,” Basil said.  “Moving to this part of town was the right decision because this is a neighborhood in transition.  I think it’s on the upswing.”

The majority of Fiddleheads’ regular clientele have made the move along with the salon.  Basil has also seen a steady increase in walk-in customers turning into standing appointments.  Customers are drawn to the salon, Basil said, because of his devotion to customer service.

“They come because we’re very customer oriented,” said Sarah Babcoc,  a Fiddleheads hairstylist.  “Our goal is to make you look the best you can, especially if you’re having a bad day.  That’s when we can really make our customers feel great.”

Pattersonville resident April Bartlett has been a longtime customer of Basil’s, dating back to 1992 when the salon was operating under the name of  “Imaginary Hair.”  According to Bartlett, the efforts of Basil and his employees to provide high quality customer service do not go unnoticed.

“The salon environment is very welcoming and comfortable,” Bartlett said.  “Chuck…always goes the extra mile to ensure that his customers are happy.”

It doesn’t hurt, Bartlett said, that Basil “is a true artist when it comes to hair.”  Babcoc called Basil’s hairstyling skills “genius.”

Basil’s 23 years of experience as a hairstylist has allowed him to offer a variety of professional services.  A shampoo, cut, and blow-dry begin at $35 for women, $20 for men, and $16 for children. Student discounts are offered for both men and women.  Basil, who is a color corrective specialist, said that the salon offers ammonia-free highlighting beginning at $70, and single process coloring beginning at $55.

Additionally, Fiddleheads provides ” Cinderella hair extensions,” Japanese permanent hair straightening, and formal hair design.

Fiddleheads currently has four employees, all of whom are licensed cosmetologists.  Basil said that in addition to a New York state license, he requires that his employees have at least two years of experience.

Babcoc is employed as a hairstylist at Fiddleheads.  She said she’s often on her feet, in heels, for the majority of the workday, but the salon is “busy enough so that you don’t notice the time passing.”

“Our days are long, but we just have fun the entire time,” Babcoc said.  “We’re all friends and we all love what we do.

Babcoc echoed Basil’s opinion about the salon’s emphasis on customer service.  A large part of her job is to make sure her clients are in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Albany resident April Dearborn said that the salon is achieving its goals of creating exactly that type of atmosphere.

“It’s just a really cool place,” Dearborn said.  “They do my hair well and it’s just a nice place to go.”

Often times, attention to customer service extends beyond simply offering clients a cup of coffee or a glass of water.

“People say that their relationships with their hairstylists are like their relationships with a therapist and it’s the truth,” Babcoc said.

In his experience, the bond he forms with his regular customers is similar to a marriage or a close friendship.

“When you come to me, your hair is wet and dripping all over the chair, and I am seeing you at your most vulnerable point,” Basil said.  “This vulnerability makes people feel compelled to tell me everything, absolutely everything.”

According to Babcoc, there will always be some clients who come in strictly to get their hair cut and styled, but there are others who want or need to “share their life stories.”

“If you come in here and tell me all about what’s happening in your life, I’ll never kiss and tell,” Basil said.  “You can tell me absolutely anything and if your boyfriend comes in here later in the week, he’s not going to find anything out.”

For many people, Basil explained, losing a stylist is like going through a divorce.  Based on the relationships between employees and customers, the hairstylists at Fiddleheads agree that they are not surprised that their regular clients moved to the salon’s new location with them.

One of Fiddleheads’ loyal customers, Robert Bermingham, made the move to the salon’s Madison location.  He has consistently been drawn back because of the salon’s devotion to its customers.

“I would definitely say that the customer service keeps me coming back,” Bermingham said.  “I can say that as a customer, I’ve referred half a dozen people, and they’re all happy.

Currently, Fiddleheads is gearing up for the beginning of wedding season.  The salon provides what Basil called “one stop shopping” on the day of a wedding.  This means that wedding parties can have the salon entirely to themselves for hairstyling, makeup application and any other kind of preparation they may require.  According to Basil, during wedding season, it is not uncommon for parties to be picked up by their limos and taken directly to the wedding from the salon.

Fiddleheads employees will come to customers’ houses for both wedding preparation and for regular hair appointments.  It’s all part of Basil’s ongoing goal of listening and catering to the specific desires of Fiddleheads’ client base.

“I want our clients to know that we recognize them and that we want to take care of them and their hair,” Basil said.  “After all, hair is your calling card.”



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