Posted on August 8, 2017
“I’m one of the old dogs around here,” says Ralph Lyman, owner of Hair Mechanix at Sola Shoppes at the Village in Green Bay. Ralph has been working in the industry for 24 years — but he might not have gotten into hair at all if it hadn’t been for a friend convincing him to move to Green Bay on a whim!
“It was a completely spur of the moment idea,” Ralph admits. The seasoned stylist grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin. He was working three jobs, thinking about enrolling in culinary school, when a friend asked Ralph if he wanted to be her roommate in her new place in Green Bay. “I said, ‘Sure,’” Ralph recalls.
When he got to Green Bay, Ralph’s friend asked him if he’d ever thought about doing hair. At first, Ralph didn’t think it would be a good fit. His sister worked in the industry, and Ralph knew how hard the job was on the body. “I knew it was a lot of work,” Ralph adds.
But before long, he was touring a cosmetology school in the area, and Ralph says, “I just fell in love.” The hairdresser, you see, had always loved art – especially sculpting – and his newfound passion was strikingly similar to his former pastime.
“Green Bay was going to be a pit stop in my life,” Ralph explains, adding, “I wasn’t thinking I’d be here forever — but it has been wonderful.”
Ralph cut his teeth in the industry working one-on-one with the owner of a sister salon to Cost Cutters. Two years later, Ralph was hired on the spot at the JC Penney salon where he’d spend the next 18 years honing his skills and developing a pretty unique niche.
“I wasn’t sure about a corporate salon,” Ralph begins, explaining that, “It was a traditional salon in every sense of the word.” Stylists got about 50 percent commission on their services and 12 percent on retail.
“We had great benefits in the beginning, but over time, as a corporation evolves into a larger entity, it takes away from the employees,” Ralph points out. “They looked at us as numbers,” Ralph recalls. And that’s when he decided it was time to make his exit.
Ralph had a room all ready to go at Sola Green Bay when he handed in his two-weeks notice. “I’ve been with Sola for three years,” he says — and the stylist hasn’t looked back once.
Ralph’s wife owns a salon at Sola, too, and both stylists rave about their building manager, Dan Hoeck. “He goes above and beyond what any normal landlord would ever do,” as Ralph puts it. “He’s always accommodating,” Ralph says, adding, “Dan gave us the confidence we needed, and he told us we were worth it.”
“Stylists,” Ralph continues, “are artists.” And just like fine artists, stylists have their own individual ways of building their masterpieces. When it comes to Ralph’s craft, it’s all about taming excessively curly hair on a multicultural population of clients.
“I do the whole gamete, but I love working with curly hair,” Ralph clarifies, noting that curly hair provides a challenge — one Ralph thoroughly enjoys tackling.
“If there’s a problem, I find a solution, and I don’t give up until it’s done,” says Ralph. “I call myself a master, and I challenge myself daily to perfect my skills — all of them,” he adds.
Social media be damned, it’s Ralph’s can-do attitude and professionalism – not online marketing – that have helped him build up his clientele. “If you treat your clients like gold, they’re more than happy to pass your card,” Ralph says.
“The majority of my business comes from years of building relationships with my clientele and with other stylists. I guess I’m ‘LinkedIn’ the old-fashioned way — by word of mouth,” Ralph continues.
Ok, ok! Ralph says, “I am trying to do Instagram. I’m trying to get into it! But,” he says, “I’m an old man, and that’s not my thing. I like face-to-face interaction.” As far as Ralph is concerned, there is still a place for old-school business practices. But there’s a caveat that Ralph points out: “Old principles can still be successful — if you can do it right,” he says. We’re pretty sure he’s got that part down pat!