Dominic Bertani started out as an employee at a small Richmond Heights salon on Clayton Road. He decided to launch his own business in Clayton after a review of clients' ZIP codes indicated the city would be a central location.
He opened in 1982 at a building on Forsyth Boulevard. It had interesting architectural detail, great windows and a parking lot in the back. At the time, the building sat on the periphery of Clayton.
In the ensuing 30 years, Bertani's salon tripled in size, offering hair, nail and skin-repair services. The city also grew.
"I've watched the City of Clayton expand so that it's right across the street from me," he said.
Bertani started out as the company's sole employee. Six months later, he hired one staff member. Now, he employs about 75 people between the Clayton salon and .
Dominic Michael Salon began at a time when being a cosmetologist drew more questions than praise.
"'Really? You're going to be a hairdresser?'" Bertani said, recalling how some people reacted.
Since then, cosmetology has become a career, he said. Whereas cosmetology schools in the past might have enrolled about 20 people per graduating class, they now enroll between 200 and 300.
For employers such as Bertani, that means more opportunities to hire qualified staff.
It also means more competition: Clients can choose from a variety of salons in the St. Louis area. And while that's true, Bertani said, his salon has many long-term and loyal clients, including families.
"We're very grateful for that," Bertani said.
For 20 years, the salon has sponsored the Designer of the Year Award in conjunction with the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University. Numerous Washington University students also use the salon.
The salon is also a member of Intercoiffure, a prestigious Paris-based business organization for salons.
Bertani enjoys being in Clayton. He said a number of people involved in city planning and administration are clients, and his salon has become integrated into the neighborhood.
He is hopeful the future will hold continued success for his company. Several employees have been with Dominic Michael Salon for between 15 and 20 years, a fact Bertani attributes both to a positive workplace for establishing and maintaining a career and a strong clientele.
It gives him great pride when people he hired out of school establish themselves at his salon and later approach him to sign off on employment verification paperwork that they will use to buy a house.
He describes his clientele in Clayton as sophisticated, knowledgable and fashionable.
"It's a stimulating population for us to work with," Bertani said.
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