Posted on October 13, 2017
“My last name never looked good in neon,” says Peter G’, who dropped his surname, Loef, and founded the Peter G’ Hair Studio at Sola Chandler in 2016. But the story of how Peter G. became a stylist is even more interesting.
From GI to Barber
Peter grew up in Philadelphia, where he immortalized the industry. “Every time I went to the barbershop with my dad, everyone was always hanging out and having a good time,” he says.
The same was true at his mom’s beauty salons. “Everyone was always happy there, too,” Peter remembers. From a very young age, Peter associated the hair industry with happy people.
But Peter didn’t get into hair right away. After high school, he enlisted in the military, and served for four years during the Vietnam era, never being deployed into combat.
Post-military, Peter took a job as a fire fighter in Tampa, Florida. Eight years in, he met a girl — and he finally told her his dream of doing hair.
“She encouraged me to use my G.I. Bill benefits to go to college,” says Peter, adding, “I’d enjoyed the adrenaline high while fighting fires, but once I started beauty school I knew I’d found my calling.”
As it turned out, the industry was every bit as happy and wonderful as Peter had thought it was when he was a kid! It’s been 34 years since Peter got behind the chair, and the 60-year-old stylist says he’s still just as passionate about his job today as when he started out.
Learning from the Pros
After graduating cosmetology school, Peter and his wife ended up in Arizona, where Peter cut his teeth working in commission salons — several of them, actually, during the early stages of his career.
When he came into the industry, Peter says he was lucky to have some notable stylists take him under their wings. Getting top-notch training daily from his colleagues and mentors is what took Peter from a run-of-the-mill stylist to a shear artist, as he calls it.
“I consider myself to be an artist with my scissors,” Peter explains, adding, “I love to create the individual cut for the individual person.”
“Back in those days, we didn’t have studios like Sola,” Peter points out. “If you decided to leave commission, you went to chair rental,” he adds. And that’s exactly what Peter did in the 1990s, before custom boutique salons were available to stylists.
Leaving the Chair
While renting booths, Peter fell into education, starting out as a part-time educator for the Wella Corporation — at first just to supplement his salon paychecks.
“It was awesome,” says Peter. There can be good money in education, plus Peter loved teaching. “It’s in my blood,” he adds.
When his part-time Wella gig turned into a full-time opportunity, Peter didn’t hesitate to move to Atlanta to work as a speaker for the hair care company. “There’s a 16-year gap in my career, from behind-the-chair to the corporate world and back,” Peter notes.
With Wella, Peter traveled extensively, and he often rented chairs nationwide. “I’d do hair on the weekends when I had the time off, and I’d be right back with Wella during the weeks,” he clarifies.
“I had a blast,” Peter says. But eventually he got tired of being on the road forty weeks out of the year. “I knew I wanted to go back behind the chair,” Peter says.
The Barber’s Career Comes Full Circle
Most of his friends thought he was crazy when he told them about his plan to return to a salon. At the time, Peter was 56 years old, and he didn’t have any clients!
Peter spent the next few years working at a commission salon in Arizona. “But I knew it was time for me to be on my own,” he says, adding, “When it’s time, you just know. It’s in your gut.”
Last October, Peter signed a lease with Sola Salons. This month, he celebrated his one-year anniversary at Sola by signing a three-year lease agreement.
From cuts and color to texture, Peter does just about everything. “On top of all this, I’m also a musician,” Peter says. He plays bass and percussion, and it’s not uncommon to hear Peter jamming out in his studio between clients.
Peter still dabbles in education, too, on a contract basis. “One of the things I’m very good at is helping businesses to grow their business,” he explains.
How to Pay Your Rent with Retail
Peter hasn’t been at Sola long, and because of a non-compete agreement he opened his salon without any clients. Yet Peter is still managing to turn a healthy profit. Ready for his secret? “I pay my rent with my retail,” Peter says.
When Peter was discovered by Wella, he was selling so much product that they thought he was a diverter! “I still use the same retail techniques today that I used back then,” says Peter.
“One of the greatest tips in retailing is to always have a full display,” he continues. “To sell one product,” Peter says, “You need at least four on your display. Nobody is going to buy the last product on your shelf.”
But who can afford to stock all of that retail? “My actual inventory isn’t as big as it seems,” Peter says. The stylist places empty bottles of product behind real ones, in order to create a “shopping experience,” as he calls it.
Peter is also big on nonverbal communication and subliminal messaging. Hence, he’s cognizant of where his clients are looking at various times during their visits, and he places subtle advertisements throughout the store.
“You don’t have to sell retail,” Peter says, explaining, “That’s not what you do. Just be a great artist, and talk to people about what you’re doing, and how they can do it at home.” If you do it right, your products will sell themselves.
“If you can pay your rent off with retail, then everything else you have is pure profit,” Peter points out, adding, “Independent salons like Sola are the evolution of our industry. But you can’t just be interested in doing it. You have to be committed in doing it.”